The couple I met with, Bill and Angie, could not come to terms with a very important decision. Each time the same discussion came up; it rolled around to the same line of reasoning, the same logistics, the same stuff – over and over.
That’s exactly what it was: just stuff! The arguments were all about right and wrong, here or there, expensive or cheap, best or worst, me or you, mine or yours. They had little to do with why resolving this decision was so hard. In fact, the arguments were much ado about nothing but a power struggle.
And it continued over days, and weeks. Until it truly came time to decide and all hell broke loose. Bill and Angie each made their case strongly and aggressively to no end. That’s when we all agreed on a one-week cease-fire. It became necessary to step away and give each other space. It was a text-book power struggle, the two-step we have all experienced. There seemed no way out.
During the cease-fire, each person would think through their true desires and ponder why they were so glued to their side of the decision. They could write notes, but they could not discuss it. Their work included spending time on empathy – understanding the others’ point of view and feelings – and their part in avoiding a final resolution.
Angie walked and thought about it. She wrote about it. She went about daily activities pondering what would happen if she let go of her grip on having it her way. She felt an opening there. But then what would happen!? What if she just accepted Bill’s way? Was there anything about “his way” that she could not accept? If so, what was it? She began to internalize how they could move forward and felt an urgency to let him know.
She jumped out of a meeting and left a message on his phone saying so. Angie told him there was only one item she needed to resolve but the rest was really OK with her. She said she felt embarrassed that she couldn’t allow this sooner. She knew she went against the cease-fire, but if it failed she would wait it out.
Bill was out hiking with his buddies, and thinking about it as well. He felt she wasn’t accepting his point of view. That Angie didn’t respect his opinion. What parts of this decision would make her feel better? Could he agree to what she wanted and let go of the rest? He placed himself in her shoes and began to loosen his grip on simply making his own decision and winning the argument. He focused on what really mattered to him – and it was Angie and their relationship.
The intensity was created because of their thoughts around what “should” happen and what was “right” and what the “best” choice would be. They were so strongly attached to the end point that they couldn’t see why they were so stuck. They took the step to get outside their personal mindset and find empathy for the other’s position. While they held onto control of the outcome, all was lost.
As Bill walked in the door, he immediately wanted to talk.
Angie thought, “Oh no, not good.” She waited.
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” he said, “and I’m just going to let it go. Either option is great, and we have caused more angst with each other because we wanted to have our way.”
Angie drew a deep breath. “Did you get my message?”
“No, why.” Bill began to think the worst. “Oh no, not good.”
“I told you how embarrassed I was about this, and that I would support either choice. They are both really fine options! There’s just one sticking point for me.”
And the whole world opened as they hugged each other and felt the walls come down. They felt closer than ever. Their choice to cultivate a shared mindset around thinking differently – now that’s power!
My work here is done!
It’s an Inside-Out job!!