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In all the excitement at Wimbledon these past couple of weeks (thanks to Andy Murray for giving it his all), I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to get locked into playing emotional ball games.  Perhaps you’re familiar with backwards and forwards, to-ing and fro-ing behaviour with someone else that usually involves a provocation, an insult or a sarcastic jibe.  For example, your knee jerk response – which you later regret – to:

  • An unnecessarily rude text from your ex partner following a misunderstanding about when you were supposed to take your child to his house.
  • Your child calling her stepmother, “Mum/Mom”.
  • A work colleague exclaiming “How could she!” on hearing that a woman in finance left her family home to be with another man.
  • Your father’s sarcastic comment about the long grass and weeds in your garden

and so on.

How to lose the game but win the match

If you’re aware of finding yourself playing emotional ball with someone, why not try the following 5 steps to lose the game but win the match:

  1. Imagine you’re in Centre Court.  Face your challenger head on.  Pause and breathe.  Observe their stance – what does it tell you?  Is there a deliberate intent to cause hurt or maliciousness?  Are they hitting out through ignorance, lack of experience or because they’re too young to know better (your child perhaps).
  2. Watch the provoking behaviour or comment – coming towards you.  Use your mind to slow it down and roll words up into a manageable tennis ball size.
  3. Stand still and relaxed in your half of the court.
  4. See the ball fly past your left or right side.
  5. Turn and leave the court in a dignified manner.  Without a word, calmly walk away.  Be prepared for a possible barrage of balls as sometimes opponents don’t like it when you stop playing the game.  Remember, even saying, “I’m not going to play ball”, is playing ball.

 What to do if you’ve already returned the ball:

  1. It’s never too late to stop playing even the longest running emotional ball game.  If you stop, your challenger will eventually give up when you’re no longer willing to play.
  2. Sit quietly and close your eyes.
  3. In your mind, press the Hawk-Eye button for an action replay.
  4. Then follow steps 3 to 5 above.

Remember that practice makes perfect so do keep at it throughout the year.  Finally, there isn’t any prize money for the winner – there’s something much more valuable and long lasting than £850 000:  the priceless emotional, physical and spiritual reward of calm, dignity and peace of mind.


Until next time, take care.



Sarah’s new self-help book: A Mother Apart

Support for women

Sarah specialises in counselling and training women. She helps non-resident mothers find inner peace by dealing with guilt, distress and other difficult feelings which can be experienced when living apart from their child. Her self-help book, 'A Mother Apart', published by Crown House, is available now. She also supports business women grow in confidence whilst growing their businesses. To find out more, please visit Sarah Hart's website

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