The Boston Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA, and are currently deadlocked with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a battle for a trip to the NBA finals. But after dropping the last two games, the Celtics seem to have lost momentum.

It can be tough to get a hold of your emotions after a bad day on the job. So when a reporter seemed to try and bait Boston head coach Brad Stevens into complaining about the officiating after his team's latest loss, I was curious to see how he would respond.

In a word, Stevens's response was perfect.

"Without getting yourself fined, what did you think of the officiating tonight?" a reporter asked Stevens after a game in which Boston was whistled for 26 personal fouls. Calmly, Stevens responded, "You won't hear me complain about officials." 

The reporter tried to ask a second question, but Stevens wouldn't allow for it. 

"They have a really hard job, and they do a tremendous job, night in and night out. I've got nothing bad to say, nothing but nice things."

In a world where it's expected for a coach to complain about the officiating after a loss, Stevens's response is refreshing. But it's also an insightful lesson in emotional intelligence, the ability to effectively manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

Here are two reasons why this response was so brilliant:

1. It inspires focus.

When things don't go as well as you wish, it's all too easy to make excuses, to justify yourself, or to shift the blame on others.

But all of these actions are anti-productive. 

By refusing to place blame on the officials, Stevens sent a clear message to his players: No excuses. Officials may have a degree of influence on a game, but you determine who wins and loses. 

So, quit worrying about things that you can't control, and start focusing on the things you can.

2. It's empathetic.

Everyone talks about empathy today, but few are willing to show it when it counts. In contrast, Stevens demonstrated an ability to understand the perspective of a group that generally draws the ire of his fellow coaches. 

Now, how do you think officials feel about Stevens? Won't they be motivated to treat him as fairly as possible? Maybe even giving him (and his team) the benefit of the doubt in a crucial moment?

Nobody likes a complainer. In contrast, empathy begets empathy--and helps deepen relationships through trust and reciprocation.

So, remember, the next time you're tempted to make excuses or shift blame for a poor performance, don't do it. Instead:

1. Forget about what you can't control, and focus on what you can.

2. Strive to show empathy.

Accomplish these two things, and not only will you learn to keep your emotions in check, you'll build stronger relationships--and greatly increase your chances at success.

Published on: May 23, 2018
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