While planning the route to your destination, you might choose to take the high road as it is considered a bit faster. It is the road less traveled; less congested. This is the easiest choice.
From a physical standpoint, running a 10k up a mountainous “high road” would be more challenging than running the same distance on solid, flat ground.
To me, taking the high road in a personal situation is a combination of the two: easy and difficult. I could be the “big girl” if something happens that isn’t directly attacking my character, such as a gentleman who is screaming at me for taking a spot in a parking lot. “Hey, you go ahead. Sorry about that. I didn’t see you.” Yes! I took the high road. It is a bit tougher when it gets personal and closer to home.
I naturally default and take the high road. In general, having a default is easiest. When we create auto-pilot healthy habits, these defaults can improve our quality of life. Ninety percent of the time, my default is a high-road auto-pilot.
Perhaps I learned this response from my mother’s “it is what it is” response. She is chirping in my ears as I type. Even in some of the most unwelcomed situations, I tell myself to suck it up, buttercup; pick your battles. Some things are simply not worth the energy or effort to defend. Again, this is a quick and easy approach.
Then there is the remaining ten percent of the time when taking the high road is more difficult, and certainly not the “easier” choice. It is when I am personally attacked or someone close to me is, then acting like the grown-up isn’t a natural default. It is more like, where is the dagger?!
This past week, I experienced a situation I could not imagine would ever become a reality. One of those, where you are so caught off guard that your mouth, hangs open for several minutes, and there are not enough words in any language on this planet to express what is going through your burning ears and flustered mind. This one ranks right up there as one of the most “whoa” situations in my lifetime.
As I have aged, I have been blessed to work with thousands of people and gather enough human behavior data to know when someone lashes out at you, it most often isn’t “about you.” We just make it that way. Even when they hit you below the belt, we are usually just the brunt of the emotion or action, not the source.
Usually, I am able to take a deep breath (or one thousand) and put the other person’s shoes on allowing me to understand their point of view. Breathing calms me down, allows me to listen more intently, and diffuses the energy bubbling from the person and the situation. Taking the high road in this particular situation, put these skills to the test let me tell you. My internal conversation was on repeat. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. Listen.
We become toddlers or rotten teenagers when we are guilty, called out, pressed for truths, or held responsible for commitments we didn’t execute. Our defensiveness often comes from a place of fear or insecurity.
Breathing through a volatile situation, again, not only decompresses the energy, but it also allows the facts to rise to the top. And, in most cases, agreeing to disagree works.
In my recent situation, the call I received was not from the source, but the bearer of the false accusations, direct attacks on my character and my integrity. The news made me wonder if I was being punked by Ashton Kutcher. My initial reaction was pure shock. During the phone conversation, I was in public which most likely allowed me to stay in listening mode longer than I would have and kept my toddler temper-tantrum at bay for at least a few minutes longer than I would have if I were out for a walk in the forest. My brain was recording all the data, line by line. My breathing and listening skills have only come from years of practice, but trust me, there were a few elevated interjections from my end.
When I am attacked, I go right into data collection mode. My brain begins scanning the information like a Xerox copy machine. It is internally verifying emails, texts, photos, phone conversation, contracts, etc. What were my commitments? What have I done or not done? My natural default is to make sure I have abided by all of my promises and assess where I got off track or came up short. As I held the phone and paced through the aisles of a clothing store, this whole verification process was spinning in my head.
By the end of the conversation, my left-brain produced a list of responses, and a stream flew out of my mouth like a ticker tape parade just rolled by. I threw out a few defensive comebacks led by I statements… “I did this…I completed this…I asked for this…I got this…” Meanwhile, I am still trying to breathe. I felt badly for the poor bearer of bad news.
Once an hour of verbal exchange passed, I then had a long meeting with myself which occurred while I walked in circles. I take a very Devil/Angel approach in my life, with everything. I “Devil Advocate” my thoughts and actions as I weigh out decisions. I began reminding myself that my whole life and business practice is about communication. Understanding, compromising, and finding solutions is what I do. I have raised two sons. I worked in Corporate America for twenty-five years.
Having conversations and energized experiences is my first and last name. I am patient, kind, compassionate, and keep my promises. I motivate and elevate others.
I remind myself that my brand is not just a representation of my hard, professional work. My brand is ME. I know my mission, vision, value, and purpose. I took my power back and made a decision. I will not reach out to the source of this sorcery.
At the end of the little meeting with myself, I shout out, literally, “This too shall pass. It is what it is. I am taking the high road. It might be a road less traveled and the harder choice, but I am walking it. I will continue to take the high road, at least ninety percent of the time. So, suck it up, buttercup!”