This sounds so easy, but can be much harder in practice. You know you have said things, likely out loud, when driving and some car cut you off. Maybe you would say it to the person when you end up next to each other at a traffic light or not. People who do are risking their life because they let their emotions get the best of them. Other situations may not have the physical risks of road rage, but they instead have personal and professional risks.

This easily can happen in the workplace, whether with co-workers or, if you deal with them like I do, opposing attorneys. When dealing with a jerk it can be hard to stop yourself from reacting. Before acting on emotion, try to think whether how you really want to respond will (1) benefit you; (2) reflect on you; (3) affect your dealings with the jerk in the future; and, if applicable, help you help your client. If you do this it’s likely you will not be baited to respond in kind. It may even make the jerk realize they’re not getting a rise out of you and they may mellow out then or in future dealings.

Keeping emotions in check can be difficult. If you know it is for you, you should come up with strategies to help you when you find yourself in a situation where being a jerk is an option (which really means in any communication you have with anyone). Examples could include nicely exiting the conversation, taking deep breaths while the other person is speaking (obviously works best if you’re on the phone or dealing with written communications), or come up with a catchphrase or mantra you can tell yourself with the hope to de-escalate the situation or conversation. Maybe you can use “serenity now” like Frank Costanza on Seinfeld:

The point is to not let yourself be drawn into situations that can reflect badly on you, your co-workers, or your client. It may feel good in the moment to yell back or insult someone, but once the moment passes it probably will be something you wish you had handled better.