It has been a long time since I first heard the expression my way or the highway. Within the context I first heard it and ever since, I have interpreted it to mean that if someone doesn’t go along with the other’s view (position, want, need, etc.) she or he might as well just leave or go away. Consistent with this interpretation, Wiktionary suggests my way or the highway means “an ultimatum which indicates the listener(s) will either conform to the desires of the speaker or else be excluded”.

This phrase and its meaning as defined here reflect a competitive approach to conflict that does not lend to collaborative or cooperative resolution of conflict. It is also common for bullies, abrasive bosses, abusive people and others to use a power approach inherent in the expression my way or the highway when insisting things go their way. Though sometimes we feel strongly about certain things and assert ourselves in a manner that may be interpreted as such, there is not much hope for reconciling our differences when either of us do so.

This week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog explores my way or the highway as a conflict management response to get what you want or when other people use it for that reason.

  • If you have used a my way or the highway approach to a past conflict, what was the situation?
  • What was your way that you felt strongly about? Why do you feel strongly about that?
  • What did you expect the other person to do by way of compliance?
  • What was your expectation about how asserting your way would affect the relationship?
  • Where does the highway lead when you tell the other person to take it? Which road do you take?
  • What did the other person want as her or his way in the same situation?
  • In another scenario when someone else has used this approach – my way or the highway – with you, how has that affected you?
  • How has that person’s approach affected the conflict? The relationship?
  • Where does the highway lead when you are told to take it?
  • When might the approach – my way or the highway – have a positive outcome? Negative outcome?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

Originally posted at

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