‘When they go low, we go high…’
It’s become somewhat of a slogan for Michelle Obama, who first used the phrase during an incredible speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention – taking the high road and doing the right thing, even when it isn’t easy.
While Michelle may be able to rise above it, I (however much I admire her), still find it one of the most difficult things to do. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on… well, I won’t have forgotten what you did the first time so you won’t get the chance to even think of fooling me again.
I’m admittedly highly strung, easily rattled and have become more outspoken – even more so as I age – and as a result I find it enormously frustrating to have to keep my mouth shut and walk away when I see something that I believe to be untrue or unfair. Now that I’m self-employed I have to regularly check myself in what and how I say things because essentially, I’m on my own.
Unfortunately, especially when working online, a thick skin and the ability to take the high road is part of the job description. It’s a confusing world to be a part of – particularly in the fact that every aspect of content creation and interaction has the ability to be edited to show the best possible side to a potential audience. This seemingly deceptive nature of blogging and accompanying false sense of security and anonymity that a computer screen provides enables a person to say whatever they want, whenever they want, often without the same fear of consequence or reciprocation that they would be held accountable for in the real world. The longer you inhabit the online world, the more common it is to witness and potentially get sucked into the self-entitlement, angst and outrage that populates the blogosphere and social media platforms on a daily basis. In fact, there are entire blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to it – ‘Drama’ content that focuses on the quarrels and spats going on between influencers.
Blogging and everything connected with it not only has changed my life for the better in unimaginable ways, but it’s the one thing that, up until last year at least, I have loved and been consistently passionate about right from the beginning. However, it’s also been a staunch learning curve in the ability to take the high road and walk away. Indeed, I’ve thrown more than a few dummies out of my pram in my time, particularly when it has directly affected (or been affected by) my content, concepts or relationships with people that I have forged over the years, and it took far longer than it should have done to realise that interaction, attempting to appease or downright having a tantrum will do almost nothing.
I knew that in order to survive in the blogosphere, I had to take a different approach. My inspiration for change actually came not from Michelle Obama nor a member of the blogging community, but from a story told by a friend involving a drunken man on the bus.
Not long into her journey, during which she was already running late, a drunk and clearly agitated man got on and immediately made it clear that he wasn’t going to pay, but expected to be taken to his destination all the same. The driver was left with no alternative than to tell him he was calling the police and that we would sit there until they arrived. This didn’t stop the man from yelling, nor give him the incentive to get off the bus or purchase a ticket, and he took to stomping around and shouting incoherent words in protest at the rest of the passengers, clearly enjoying himself. Comments from some of the passengers for him to sit down and shut up had no effect, so my friend stood up and offered to pay for his ticket. Eventually, the driver (who must have realised that he was in a difficult situation) gave in and accepted the money, upon which he issued the ticket, the man yelled some more, sat down and we finally carried on. He got what he wanted, she sat down and kind gesture went unthanked.
I thought about it. She could have confronted him or waited for the police to arrive like the rest of us in an effort to be ‘right,’ but she took the high road and dealt with the situation in a way that allowed her (and everyone else around her) to continue with their journey with minimal fallout. Of course, it wasn’t fair that he got away with it, but I have the distinct feeling that a warning or sanction from the police would have made little difference to his behaviour in the future. He clearly needed help.
An easy comparison can be made to the blogging world. Most people are on their own journey, minding their own business and going about their day, and then there are those who thrust themselves into the personal space of others, taking opportunities to attack as and when they can, sometimes purely for the sport of it. Someone is always upset about something.
Steps for Taking the High Road
Do nothing. It’s the WORST. It’s unfair and frustrating but in the long run, definitely the most effective. No response means no further cause for communication. Without fuel, a fire will eventually burn out.
Block, delete and/or report consistent abuse, while avoiding challenging that person directly.
Remove yourself. I recently discovered an utterly fabulous quote: ‘Don’t blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.’ It’s so true. If the situation that you’re in is negative then take yourself away from it and regroup, even if it appears that you will lose out.
Avoid a knee-jerk response. The natural reaction to feeling attacked is to defend. Anger, disbelief, fear, sadness are all emotions that remove thought and rationality from our conduct. A time-out allows for an angry child to calm down, so don’t be afraid of creating one for yourself. If a response is absolutely necessary take that much needed time to calm down so that it is clear, concise and mindful.
Redirect any feelings of anger and frustration into being productive. I find this particularly useful – channelling the energy I would waste on fighting into working through my tasks for the day usually results in me feeling much better when everything is completed.
Accept the (however painful) fact that sometimes you may actually be in the wrong. In an argument of two sides, the truth can usually found somewhere in the middle and the blogging world is primarily made up of individual opinion. Remember that others are allowed to disagree with you and yours.
Remember that you have no control over anyone else and their issues, but you ARE in control with how you handle your own. Take a deep breath, walk away, carry on as you are and smash your day.
What about you guys? Do you find taking the high road difficult?
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