How would you react if you heard a colleague you considered a friend had been making fun of you behind your back?
That's what happened recently when the current Miss USA, 24-year-old Miss Universe contestant Sarah Rose Summers, was recorded making comments about two fellow contestants.
In a live video recently posted on Instagram, Summers told two other fellow contestants that Miss Vietnam, H'Hen Nie, is "so cute and she pretends to know so much English ... and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes (nods and smiles)."
"She's adorable," Summers said, after laughing.
In a separate video, Summers seemed to be more empathetic when speaking about another contestant, Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat.
"Miss Cambodia is here and doesn't speak any English, and not a single other person speaks her language," Summers said. "Can you imagine? Francesca (Miss Australia) said that would be so isolating, and I said yes and just confusing all the time."
"Poor Cambodia," she concluded.
The videos have since gone viral, with many interpreting Summers's comments as unkind and ignorant. ?Summers went on to apologize via Instagram, where she posted a photo of herself hugging fellow contestants.
But the best part of this story is the response of the two contestants Summers spoke about.
On Friday, Nie told CNN that Summers "didn't mean anything" by it.
"Everyone in this competition, myself included, loves and respects one another," she said, adding that Summers had been particularly supportive and helpful to her.
"When she knew about my difficulties with (the English) language, she took an interest and showed me love. That's why she knows about that. Thank you, Miss USA, for taking care of me, showing me love and helping me recently," H'Hen Nie said.
Sinat shared a similarly thoughtful response. She posted the same Instagram photo as Summers, along with the following caption:
My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart. Our experience has given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures.
I speak the language of love, respect, and understanding. I love you, my sisters.
Kudos to both Sinat and Nie for responses that are equal parts classy, dignified, and respectful--and emotionally intelligent.
What's EQ got to do with it?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage your emotions, along with the emotions of others. It's a key quality that can help you navigate difficult circumstances.
Both Sinat and Nie could have met Summers's comments with aggression. They could have asked for her to be disqualified from the contest, or tried to persuade other contestants to give Summers the silent treatment or freeze her out.
But they didn't do any of those things.
Instead, they chose the high road. They realized that we all make thoughtless comments at times, and that it's easy to misunderstand a situation taken out of context (or words said in a specific moment).
Rather than take it personally, they used the opportunity to express forgiveness and show kindness. They spoke with Summers and accepted her apology.
In doing so, they defused a volatile situation and pursued peace.
So, the next time you hear that someone said something unkind about you, ask yourself the following before you respond:
Have I ever said anything unkind about another person? If so, how would I want them to treat me?
Then, take the opportunity to treat them the same way.