One of my favorite sayings is “you never regret taking the high road.” This goes for just about any conflict in life. Say that someone cuts you off in traffic and, to avoid them, you have to stamp on your brakes. This scares you. Once the scare wears off, anger comes in. You are furious that this inconsiderate idiot would selfishly put you in harm’s way just because he/she just had to get in front of you.
So, what do you do? Follow them to their destination and confront them? Bad idea; you don’t know who you’re dealing with; it could be a hot head with a loaded gun. Do you do the same to them on the road to ‘teach them a lesson’? Or are you just grateful that no one was hurt and just go abut your business?
This is a tough call. When something like this happens, it’s pretty normal to get scared and then get angry. Our brains go from flight to fight in a second. But is this the best response?
Years ago when I worked for a big computer company in Massachusetts, I was late to an important meeting at another facility. I was driving a tad over the speed limit, and yet someone still cut me off to get on the exit ramp I was about to take.
Whatever part of my brain that is responsible for doing stupid things took over, and I honked my horn and flipped him off. I was furious. When I finally got to my meeting, I was still fuming until I saw who was running the meeting.
It was the guy I had honked at and flipped off. I know that he recognized me, but he never said a word to me. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t get a thing out of the meeting. I was waiting for him to call me out, but he didn’t. It was as if there was an unspoken agreement between us to say nothing.
Ever since that day, I have never flipped off anyone. The only time I honk at someone these days is if I think that they don’t see me and a collision is about to happen; sort of a preemptive strike.
Ever since then I have tried my best to just take the high road in situations like this. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. Perhaps the person who did something stupid in traffic just lost his/her job, or a loved one, or something traumatic. Or maybe they just were not thinking.
In a prior post, I mentioned the story about the man and his four children getting on the subway. The children ran wild; running up and down the aisles, yelling and knocking into people, and disturbing everyone in the car. The father just sat there, not paying a bit of attention to his kids.
An older woman spoke loudly to him, saying, “Why can’t you control your children? Can’t you see how they are acting? They are annoying everyone!” Many peopled frowned and nodded.
The man blinked and looked at her. He said, “I’m sorry; I know they are disruptive. You see, their mother just died, and they don’t know what to do. I don’t, either.”
The mood on that subway changed immediately. The older woman put her arm around the man and told him that she was so sorry for his loss. The previously annoyed people held their arms out to the children, and one man opened a box of doughnuts to share with them. The situation had changed completely.
We can’t read other peoples’ minds, so we often jump to conclusions that are incorrect. I am not condoning bad behavior, but in order for me to not lose my mind over what others do, I try to keep my cool. I do mutter to myself, calling them appropriate names like ‘dumb ass’ or worse, but that’s as far as it goes.
For me, it’s not so much taking the high road, but just trying not to make a bad situation worse.