Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to watch the Rogers Cup tennis final in Toronto Canada. Serena Williams (USA) playing Bianca Andreescu (CANADA). They were both coming into the event with injuries, some of which the news had shared more about than others.
The first set was at 3-1 for Bianca when the match was ended due to the level of back pain Serena was in. Not a way any player, of any sport, wants to end a game. Imagine for a 23-time Grand Slam champion.
19-year-old Bianca, could have done nothing. Could have sat on her side of the court, while the announcers shared with the crowd and the audience at home what was going on. She, beautifully listened to her instinct/gut. She crossed over the court to Serena’s bench and acknowledged what was going on, the pain they had both endured on/off court in the last year, and the impact that watching Serena’s career has had on her. Humility.
I play tennis. Writing about this to you today isn’t about tennis. It’s about showing up as good, real people.
I have thought several times of the interaction the two of them shared after the match was abruptly ended. In my role, I teach others how to be (more) empathetic. I have no idea what Bianca’s training or experience with empathy is, and what she did in that moment was a lovely gesture. Speaking honestly, I am unsure what I would have done in that moment myself at her age. My guess; I would have looked lost, done little and would still be trying to wrap my head around ‘I AM PLAYING SERENA WILLIAMS!’. ;0)
I am sharing my reflection on this event, not because anything was done bad or wrong. Simply – to give another perspective and therefore something for us to consider when in life situations.
As I reflect on the situation, I keep thinking about what deep empathy could have looked & felt like in that moment. Imagine if Bianca walked from her bench to Serena’s and simply sat beside her, taken a couple deep breaths and sat unified. Simply – two gals who together are playing the Rogers Cup final.
After a minute, Bianca could have looked Serena in the eye and acknowledged, “This was our game. No one wants to end a match this way. I’m feeling this with you. You are not alone.”
And then with Serena’s agreement, Bianca and Serena would stand up together, so the crowd could acknowledge the situation they were in, together.
Watching the unwind after the set was ended early, you could see the confusion in everyone. And the combination of emotions (pain and ‘hold it together’) in Serena’s face. Perhaps one person, stepping in, and setting the stage differently could have shifted this scene entirely. Imagine how the next 15 minutes may have rolled out for all involved.
Empathy is a gift.
How often do you connect, really connect with a situation and lead with empathy?
How much better would life be, if you did?
What one tweak can you make today in your approach to be WITH people versus at people, when life/work situations arise?
Thanks for considering this with me xo