Monday, September 14, 2009

Now it's Serena's Turn: Anger on the Court

View Julie Christiansen's profile on LinkedInI must say I was shocked and disappointed to see Serena Williams' unwarranted, grossly unsportsmanlike outburst this weekend. Whether there was a line fault is not the issue. Whether or not the linesperson was incompetent is not the issue. Whether or not Serena was losing anyway is not the issue. The issue here is that this young lady clearly does not know how to treat other people with respect and dignity when she is feeling angry. Secondly, Serena clearly has difficulty owning up to her mistakes and making apologies; rather, she hides behind bravado, choosing to minimize her behaviour, likely in an attempt to cover up her embarrassment for acting so aggressively.

In Anger Solutions, we use a little questionnaire to help people identify their anger responses and how those responses serve them. It looks like this: "When I feel angry, I _______ (behaviour) and immediately I feel _______ (feeling); and later I feel _____________ (feeling).

Based on what I saw yesterday, Serena's completed form might look like this: "When I feel angry, I yell, swear, intimidate, and threaten the person that made me angry, and immediately I feel powerful and superior; and later I feel embarrassed."

I read a comment online that said that Serena needs to grow up, eat crow, apologize, and take anger management classes. I kinda-sorta agree with that comment. Yes, she needs to grow up. Yes, she needs to apologize. Yes, she needs to learn how to effectively express her anger - but she needs more than a class. She needs to learn how to make the process of anger resolution a part of her lifestyle. Like it or not, she is a public figure with a huge following. She has a responsibility to do better and to set an example - the weight of that responsibility may even be heavier because she is black and a woman. Whatever the case, her behaviour was unacceptable and she knows it. She just doesn't know how to admit it. Therein lies her problem.