Have you ever been so sure of the answers that you tuned out? There’s just one thing wrong with having everything figured out: It doesn’t leave space for new or different ideas. You lock yourself into binary, your way/my way thinking, the subject of the March series, The Third Way.
When I ran into Martha, it had been a week since her showdown with the PTA President, but she was still upset. “I knew chairing the homecoming carnival at my kid’s new school would be a ton of work, but I thought I’d have some fun along the way. I’d always gotten along with Sheryl, but up close? She’s a nightmare! She weighs in on every idea I propose. It’s like there’s some secret rule book I don’t know about,” she groaned.
A few months later, I braced myself for the update. Imagine my surprise as she arrived upbeat and relaxed.
“After a tense planning meeting, one of the board members offered to take me out. Frankly, I was ready to spend lunchtime complaining, but then she told me about the countless hours Sheryl spent volunteering at school. How education was a real passion for her. By the end of the meal, I realized my assumptions about her were all wrong,” Martha explained, looking away. “What we wanted was absolutely the same—a great experience for everyone who attended with plenty of fundraising for the after-school arts program. How we got there? That was another matter. Our work methods are always going to be different. But whenever we clashed, we would work things out by asking, ‘What’s best for the kids?’ We ended up with a great event.”
Martha’s story is important because it shows how easy it is to make assumptions, especially when you have a lot to do. However, connecting the dots can mean that you’re jumping to conclusions that might not exist. Like Martha, a bad interaction or two begins to cloud your judgment. Before you know it, you’ve written the relationship off.
You may find yourself at odds with someone right now. If you think you’ve got it under control, check in with your body. Are your shoulders tight whenever you see them? Is your breathing shallow when you try to have a conversation? Those are physical demonstrations of how you’ve shut down. And if your body is that tense, imagine how much you’ve closed your heart and mind.
Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to take a big leap of faith and consider that what you think about someone or something might be wrong, or at least a little inaccurate. Make this the week you happily resign the title of Know It All and open yourself to the possibility that there is more to understand, or like Martha, something wonderful to discover. Then redirect your focus from the long list of things that divide you to what you have in common, even if that is only a single goal. That’s how you find the third way.