On the Etiquette of Taking the High Road
As part of an etiquette series on The Daily Connoisseur I would like to explore the various facets of etiquette and how it plays a part in our daily lives. This week’s post is on taking the ‘high road’.
Taking the high road means many things to me- it means to remain a class act at all times, to not allow yourself to get flustered or agitated, to keep your cool and to issue detached assertiveness (really the essence of maintaining an air of mystery- losing one’s cool is so not mysterious).
This isn’t always easy. Sometimes when met with a pushy or rude person it can be awfully tempting to appeal to your baser instincts and issue a low blow to defend yourself. But I find avoiding this at all costs really pays off in the end.
This past summer I watched The Real Housewives of New York reunion show (an American reality TV show that follows a group of women that are probably as far from real as it gets) and was absolutely appalled at the behavior exhibited on screen. These women are far from well behaved anyway (even though one of them actually wrote an etiquette book) but the show had been a guilty pleasure of mine for a few seasons. But the level of vulgar cattiness, rude retorts and complete lack of manners from any of them, with maybe the exception of Sonja Morgan, left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth. I turned it off before it was half way through and decided to stop watching the show all together- a pity because I used to get quite a kick out of it.
**Update** I just read that they have replaced several of the original cast members for next season so I might put it back on my guilty pleasure list and give it another shot- although my hopes are not high.
I think what disturbed me the most about the reunion episode was that no one took the high road. Attacks and accusations were flying everywhere and most of them, rather than remaining calm and ladylike adopted the language of a sailor and said something equally horrible back. Whatever happened to civility? If my character was ever attacked like that of course I would want to defend myself but I think it’s much more clever to deliver a witty and civilized retort than to resort to common vulgarities. (Although I must say that isn’t easy either. I always think of the perfect thing to say long after the incident occurs).
Sometimes in those situations saying nothing at all and smiling is the best defense. I am reminded of a story about an ancient Chinese monk who was accused of wrong doing by an entire town. When the accusations flew he simply said “Is that so?” In the end the truth prevailed (it always does) and he was found to be innocent. But good for him in the meantime for taking the high road.
So the next time you are met with an unsavory character who tries to take you down practice taking the high road- smile and say “Is that so?” or say nothing at all. After all, if you remain a class act you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone- your behavior will speak volumes for you.
I would love to know… what are your experiences with taking the high road?
The Chinese porcelain vases pictured above are from the Qianlong Reign and date back to 1740. They can be found at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
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