Warren and I had just walked out of the store and were about to get into our car when two men jumped out of their cars and started yelling obscenities at each other. Everyone seemed to freeze and watch the scene unfold. It was tense, the situation quickly escalated, and each man seemed to get more aggressive as the seconds ticked by. One man advanced on the other and cornered him into his car. It was much too close for physical distancing and much too close for the anger that was displayed. Warren and I stayed a safe distance away but watched in horror as they behaved like anything but adults.
Emotions quickly spike when stress levels are high. It is easy to tell others to keep their cool, but we all know that in the moment, it is very easy to say “take the high road” but very difficult to do, especially if you feel the attack was personal. Each of the men in the parking lot felt the other had deliberately caused potential harm to him. Once the insults and obscenities started to fly, it was pretty hard for them not to take it personally.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”3jcN8″ via=”yes” ]Taking the high road is easy to say and very hard to do in the heat of the moment. [/ctt]
Taking the high road is easy to say and very hard to do in the heat of the moment. We all want to take that road with style and class to say and do the right things the right way.
Here are three tips to help you:
1. Remind yourself that it is NOT about you! We all tend to personalize our experiences in life. Take that coworker who walks past your desk every morning and never seems to acknowledge you, smile, say hello, or start a conversation. It is easy to assume this person is deliberately ignoring you and to take their affront personally. We will question why they say hello to one person and not to you and assume they are ignoring you deliberately.
They likely aren’t ignoring you. They are probably a million miles inside their heads and aren’t thinking about you, aren’t thinking that you are taking this personally, and aren’t trying to be rude either. They just are thinking about something else.
When you default to taking things personally, take a time-out and ask if there is possibly another explanation that has nothing to do with you. Take the high road, and don’t assume that their behavior is a personal attack. It likely isn’t.
2. Learn to bite your tongue. It is tempting to say what comes to mind in the heat of the situation, but it will cause tensions to rise rather than dissipate.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”o6GaH” via=”yes” ]Learn to bite your tongue. It is tempting to say what comes to mind in the heat of the situation, but it will cause tensions to rise rather than dissipate.[/ctt]
As you can imagine, the two men arguing in the parking lot last week were not biting their tongue. They were verbally attacking each other, which caused frustration on both sides.
If I were coaching one of the men, I would have coached him not to respond verbally to the other. That is the exact definition of taking the high road. We want to lash back; we want to defend. If your situation is happening at work, you may say something that will cause you to lose your job, ruin your reputation and/or credibility. It would have felt great in the moment to attack the other verbally, but the long-term effects wouldn’t be worth it.
Biting your tongue is an example of taking the high road. Don’t say what is on the tip of your tongue. While it can be satisfying to snap back with a smart retort, it may be something you regret.
3. Respond vs. React. When we react, we get caught up in the emotions of the situation. When we respond, we have thought through what we are going to say, why we are going to say it, and how we will say it. By taking that pause, we can avoid a situation that causes regret.
When the two men in the parking lot started yelling, one could choose to respond instead of reacting. That would mean that while one was yelling at the other, the second man wouldn’t be yelling back. The first man would quickly exhaust his anger because he wouldn’t have anything to react to, and the second man would be calm, cool, and collected by choosing to respond by saying nothing.
There are times when we do need to say things, but by choosing to wait, you can take the time to respond professionally and not emotionally. If you are going to have a conversation, give yourself a 24 hour wait time before saying what you want to say. Your emotions will be calmer; you will be more professional, you will be taking the high road.
Taking the high road, being graceful, professional, and classy, is not accidental. It’s intentional. Intentionally think about what you’re going to say. Intentionally think about when you’re going to say it. Intentionally remove yourself from personal feelings of what’s going on. Intentionally be careful about what you’re doing. Take that high road. I can pretty much guarantee you will never regret taking the high road, and you will regret taking the low road.