From my upcoming book, Choose Your Battles Wisely

Will Smith’s slap heard ‘round the world was a clear lesson in not choosing your battles wisely.

On the 27th of March, 2022, during the live television broadcast of the 94th Academy Awards, show co-host Chris Rock joked about Will Smith’s wife, Jada, who had a hair loss affliction known as alopecia areata. 

Though her husband laughed at the joke, Jada bristled and didn’t seem amused at all. Smith then walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across his face.

Will Smith’s name will forever be associated with that decision. 

When you react to an insult, you are allowing the insulter to control you. 

It’s interesting to remember that comedy is built around insults and comebacks and Will Smith has made millions of dollars in comedy films and TV shows. Some people can dish it out but can’t take it.

You can see in the video above that Will Smith was laughing at the joke. He didn’t seem to be offended. 

However, when he saw his wife was disturbed, he made a choice. What were some of his options? Here are seven. I’m sure there are more.

Seven Options Will Smith Had to Respond to Chris Rock

  1. He could have said nothing
  2. He could have complained to the show’s producers then or later.
  3. He could have hugged his wife for support and told her he loves her. 
  4. He could have taken his wife’s hand and left the event. 
  5. He could have stood up and asked Chris Rock to apologize.
  6. He could have stood up and walked to Chris Rock and told him what he thought
  7. He could have stood up, walked to Chris Rock, and physically assault him.

Which of these decisions was the most problematic? 

If he did anything other than walk up and slap Chris Rock, the spotlight would probably be on Chris Rock for a tasteless joke. But, that’s comedy, at least it used to be.

The only decision that could damage Will Smith’s own brand and risk being thrown into jail was the decision he chose. 

Slap Chris Rock.

Even though this is a world stage, the Three Fights Rule still applies and that is that there are potentially three fights to every confrontation.

Fight 1 is the verbal insult or attack.

In this case, Fight 1 started with Chris Rock’s joke.

Sometimes when you are insulted, you have to fight to restrain yourself and stay safe. 

The goal is always to end the confrontation in Fight 1. 

This is where it pays to develop a Teflon ego so that whatever someone says to you just slides off. That is a sign of strength. Sure, words have power. So does fortitude. 

There is a huge difference between a verbal insult and a physical attack. Had Chris Rock slapped Smith’s wife or just threaten to slap her, we would expect and applaud Will Smith for at least slapping Rock. That didn’t happen. 

Slapping someone for insulting your wife doesn’t remove the insult and it doesn’t improve the situation. 

It’s a dangerous habit to let people control your emotions. Who wants that? Especially, if it’s someone you don’t know or whose opinion you don’t care about. Who cares what they say?

How could you let someone you think very little of or will never see again goad you into escalating the situation into Fight 2?

Fight 2 is the Physical Fight.

Despite at least six other options listed at the start of this article, Will Smith chose his battle. He escalated the situation by walking across the stage and slapping Chris Rock. 

While a slap is usually not as harmful as a punch, in the eyes of the law it’s still a battery.

There are tons of Fight 2 examples where a guy insults another guy who punches the insulter. The insulter is knocked out, falls and his head bounces off the floor and he is seriously injured, paralyzed, or dies from the impact of his head bouncing off the floor. 

That one-second decision can change your life forever because it moves you to Fight 3.

One Punch Deaths 

Fight 3 is the legal battle to keep you from going to prison.

This battle will usually be fought by you in a jail cell for the next year or two while you’re mortgaging your home and selling your positions to pay the legal bills. Not to mention any medical bills or personal lawsuits filed by the guy you punched.

When it comes to choosing your battles wisely, this kind of scenario is extremely acute. It’s happening right now. The whole event could start and run through Fights 1, 2, and 3 in the blink of an eye.

The entire Will Smith incident from insult to slap was 20-seconds that will be talked about as a tarnish on his career for at least 20-years.

Choose your battles wisely by making a decision to protect yourself in the moment instead of exposing yourself to liability that may last a lifetime.