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When is the low road the high road?

The fact is, if you live long enough, you are going to get betrayed, taken advantage of or treated unkindly. That’s life and if none of that ever happens to you then you just aren’t living large enough or far enough out on the limb.

The question is how do you know which course of action to take when you experience betrayal, mistreatment or being taken advantage of? Often people will encourage you to take the high road. “Shake it off and move on,” will be the word of encouragement you get from well meaning friends, family and colleagues.

Consider that there is a line between shaking it off and moving on and enabling behavior that legitimately could damage your career and your reputation. This subtle distinction is important to consider. While there is never a smart case for inflaming drama there is also seldom a good case for standing idly by and letting your character take an unfair beating. It is NOT true that those that matter will not listen or believe.

There is seldom glory or benefit in taking a beating unjustly. I am not suggesting that you should fight fire with fire but I am suggesting that you carefully consider the best response to the unjust assault on you. Those that matter will likely stand by and wonder what is going on that you would allow such treatment. The fine line is blurred when you passive aggressively or even fully aggressively come out against the person or persons that wronged you. My suggestions, while simple and limited have certainly served me well in moment of unfair and warrantless accusation or lies.

1. First, go to the source and ask respectfully if it is true that they said what you were directly told they said.
2. Second, ask them for a full retraction and to go back to those people and clearly retract what was said.
3. Finally make it clear that you will not sit idly by and allow your character to be damaged by unfair and unwarranted attacks on your character. In this case above all others it’s not what you say it’s how you say it.

A respectful and curious approach is always the best strategy. Let me say that it is VERY likely that the person will lie and not own their misjudgment. Do not get sucked into the trap that they must admit it. The fact that you were respectful and asked incisive questions will put them on notice that you are not going to tolerate their misstatements. Then and only then can you walk away knowing that you have done all that you can to turn on the lights and expose the toxicity.