When I was a Wall Street Journal journalist, I was sent to cover a football game in Barcelona. Later during the game in the stadium I was startled to see many spectators in the stadium yelling racist insults down at the renowned Brazilian footballer, the flying fullback Dani Alves. Capping it off, an angry spectator who had been screaming racial epithets at him threw a banana down in front of Alves as he was walking back onto the field to play again.

Without a pause, Alves casually strolled over, picked up the banana, peeled it back as he continued strolling whist eating several bites, Then he nonchalantly threw the banana peel over his shoulder, and continued back into the game. Then most of the crowd went wild, cheering Alves by name for his startling, fun, and instinctively uplifting reaction. That spontaneous, super- short, three-act playlet was captured on hundreds of smart phones in the stadium, then rapidly spread within the stadium and around the world.

Thus that single action turned a potentially violent crowd situation into a unifying and celebratory scene for those who were outraged by the racist insult. In fact, several individuals in the stadium proudly imitated his unfazed, positive response by standing up and throwing one arm up and behind them in an imitation of Alves overhead banana toss. And the Brazilian’s teammate Neymar tweeted, “Dani Alves owned him. Take that, you bunch of racists. We are all monkeys so what!”

Alves’s droll, unflappable response elevated his stature and enabled him to be more widely known and admired, way beyond his legion of fans in the stadium that day. One sign is the huge number of people who afterward posed for selfies outside the stadium as they imitated various versions of this unexpectedly viral, banana-peel tossing incident.

Later, the stadium management rode the wave of reaction and publicly banned the belligerent banana-thrower from the stadium. Yet Alves responded that this man should be allowed back in, so he could demonstrate he had learned from this lesson. In so doing, the news story lasted longer and spread farther, and Alves became even more widely known and admired for his grounded, magnanimous behavior.
Hint: The sweetest revenge is a grounded, well-lived life. Turn acts of ill will into healthy opportunities to glue others together around their better sides.

Tip: One nudge to enable you to stay cool when under fire is to remind yourself that one of your biggest opportunities to look noble in front of others is when you stay grounded and genial when others are hostile Also, seek ways to turn actions of ill will into healthy ways to glue others together around collective actions of goodwill, showing their unifying, better side. This may be the sweetest revenge for a well-lived life. Discover over 60 other proven tips to become more valued and visible in my book Opportunity Makers https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PLN6KWR

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a connective behavior, leadership and quotability speaker, author and columnist. Her TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.4 million views. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. For Obama's first presidential campaign she created over 208 issues formation teams. She was Pacific Telesis' first Cable TV and Wideband Division Director and a founding board member of Annie's Homegrown.Kare’s the author of Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.