Take the High Road

Lately, I have realized that many people have not heard the saying take the high road or understand its meaning. I then remembered that until my late twenties I too did not know either, until someone I worked with and respected explained it to me. I believe it was one of those life lessons that has proved to be very valuable for me.

The dictionary describes the term as: The most positive, diplomatic, or ethical course.

That was not something that I recall learning specifically as a child or hearing about prior to my co-worker sharing it with me. She told me that she learned it during her college years from a professor of hers that noticed sometimes she would lash out in defense or do something to get even when things did not go her way, even if they were things done to her unfairly.

I’ve thought about her words over the years and trained myself to live by them! I figured out two important things;

  1. When I take the high road, no matter how badly or unfairly I have been treated, I feel better about ME which is more important than being the opposite of positive, diplomatic and ethical
  2. The key in taking the high road is to have boundaries and exercise them when necessary. This means in a diplomatic way, I may respond to others or situations that I do not like or agree with and state or exercise my boundaries without being negative or unethical

You may be surprised, as I have been, the outcomes of taking the high road. Not only do I feel better, but often times an individual or situation will turn around for the better simply because I did not do or say anything to make things worse (yes even during those times where I had to set boundaries).

By the way boundaries is a whole other blog post :) But to clarify, when I say set boundaries I mean; (Wikipedia) ‘Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.’

I will say no to someone or something that is not good for me. I will not allow others to do things to me that I do not feel good about or to treat me disrespectfully. But people sometimes do that, don’t they? Happens to all of us at times. And that’s where we need to learn to take the high road. To be positive, diplomatic and ethical in our response, even while asserting our boundaries.

Tips that may help you to take the high road next time someone cuts you off in traffic, speaks to you disrespectfully or anything else that may cause irritation;

  • Take a deep breath and count to ten – by this time you may be OK to not have to respond at all and the incident will have passed
  • Think about the kind of person you want to be and are exhibiting to others; kind, graceful, forgiving or bitter, vengeful and on edge
  • Pause to consider what the other person may be dealing with that you have no idea about (no this is not an excuse for everyone to walk all over you) and remember that it may be causing them to act inappropriately
  • Think about how you want to be treated when you make a mistake, speak out of turn or are simply acting out because of your life circumstances (again this does not give you a free ticket to treat others badly)
  • If you are with kids, have kids or are around kids STOP and consider what you are teaching them about responding and reacting to others

We would love to hear from you about how you take the high road and suggestions you would like to share with the Then Life Happens community.

Photo Credit Attribution Some rights reserved by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi


  1. bruna says

    Thanks for this post!For the first months of this year I dealt with a very difficult boss who harassed the team – she yelled, she threatened, she questioned our intelligence and capacity. She tried doing the same to me, but I set boundaries early and she stopped, but kept on doing it to other team members and found subtler ways to undermine my motivation and performance. I left the company yesterday for a better position, but couldn’t stop myself from raising a red flag to HR during my exit interview. Although this isn’t really taking the high road, I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving great professionals behind with this woman, knowing that they really need their jobs and are not in a position where they can say something. I hope it all works for the best, even for her, because being like this can’t be good for her.

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