A few years ago, I heard the phrase “you have to choose the hill you are going to die on”. I had never heard that phrase before and it really resonated with me. If you are not quite sure what the phrase means, it simply means you need to choose your battles. You can’t take on every fight. If you think about it literally, you can only die once. So when you decide that you are going to fight to the death, make sure it is the right war. Some battles are just not worth it. I know it may be hard to hear this, but it is true. Sometimes, silence will be your best defense.
So, you may be wondering how do you decide which hill is the hill that is worth dying on? The truth is, the answer is not the same for everyone. It will be determined by what you value most. Let’s say you have a child who is being bullied at school and the school is not doing enough to protect your child. In my opinion, that is an acceptable hill to die on. Maybe, you have a medical condition that your doctor is not taking seriously, despite multiple attempts on your part. That is an excellent hill to die on. However, the restaurant that messes up your order is not that hill. See the difference?
I believe that if it is something that directly affects health and safety, then it is worth fighting for. The truth is, most things do not rise to that threshold. So what do we do in those instances? We need to learn how to take a step back and assess a situation properly before taking action. Now, you might be asking what to do in situations where you may not need to go to the mat, but you still need to register your displeasure. In those cases, I recommend a nice strongly worded letter/email to the person who is in a position to give you the redress that you seek. As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
I can tell you from experience that this pen to paper approach is very effective for multiple reasons.
- Putting your thoughts on paper forces you to think about what it is that you want to say. So, it gives you an opportunity to clarify your thoughts and in so doing, you are able to express yourself more clearly.
- You are able to ask for what you want. If you were wronged in some way, for example, you can ask to be made whole or for an apology.
- You will be communicating with someone who has the power and authority to assist you to obtain that which you seek. Often, when we “go to the mat” in the moment, we are dealing with a gatekeeper, who has no real authority.
- Most importantly, you have a record of your actions and any subsequent response to your communication. In some cases, there may be no response, but that then becomes additional evidence for you to use in your next step.
So, rather than engaging in unnecessary conflict, stop and think about the situation and the kind of response it warrants in the moment. If it is something that you can let go, move on and repeat after me “this is not the hill I plan to die on today”.