The fireworks were scheduled to start at eleven, and we arrived about thirty minutes before then. We came across thousands of people sitting on the hillside and on steps around a pond in a park and we decided that we would join them for the show. The actual site of the launch was on the next street but it seemed as if we would be able to see from this vantage point.
We were unable to get seating on the steps so we found a spot on the flat area just below the steps, up against a fence. We had a half-hour to watch the people and get ready. As more and more people arrived, the sitting area got more and more crowded. People squeezed in everywhere and eventually every single space of ground was taken up with people sitting, including the aisles. That meant that no one could get past without asking, ‘Could we please just sneak down in between you two?’
We were rather enjoying watching the different personalities at work. The ‘sitting’ people in the area we were observing lost their good humour fairly quickly. As people would ask to get by, they pretended not to hear, they sighed heavily, they protested, and eventually several of them said that, ‘No, we cannot move any more. We are not moving.’ Because I was not the one trying to get past, it seemed rather humorous.
After several people had attempted to pass and had been rejected or scorned, we assumed that the attempts would end. But before long, a young guy, who may or may not have had a few drinks, and his friends, arrived and wanted to get down the hill, through the cranky people. He politely asked if he could squeeze through and one woman sharply told him, ‘No. We are done moving. We can’t move.’ His response made my night!
He could have become mad, he could have caused a scene, he could have barged through, he could have done any number of things. However, his response was brilliant. He put a big huge smile on his face and said in an incredibly pleasant, and appropriately loud voice, ‘Now I know you can move and I know you can help us to get down there. And do you know how I know this? Because we are Canadians! And that’s what we do! We all work together to help each other! So, I know we can do this if we all work together. Let’s all of us Canadians work together to make this happen!’
By this time, people who were sitting nearby were starting to smile and chuckle. Even the crankiest lady of all, the one who had said she could not move one more time, was softening. Before we knew it, she was moving over making way for this young guy to pass by. He and his nine friends had a lovely wide path open for them as they walked down through the crowd. Once at the bottom they turned to say thank you. By then, everyone was smiling and laughing and feeling good.
This got me thinking about the diverse ways that we handle uncomfortable situations. As I stood there thinking about it, the fireworks began. We could hear the first sounds and the whole crowd turned to see them. All the people who had been seated on the steps and who had been so determined not to budge turned too. And then a collective, ‘Oh no’ could be heard. And then laughing. From the vantage point of these people, no fireworks could be seen. The trees blocked everything except the glow of light. Within minutes, all the people who could not move, thousands of them, had cleared out; no doubt hoping to find someone who would let them squeeze in so that they could see!
I’ve been thinking about this ever since. Not about the fireworks. I hear those were incredible! But rather about the ways that these different people handled uncomfortable situations. I’ve been thinking about which kind of person I would rather work with. Would I rather work with someone who is ‘right’, who knows what they stand for, who is not afraid to stick to their guns and who will not be talked into change their thinking? Or would I rather work with, ‘guy who may or may not have had a few drinks’; someone who sees that a situation could get ugly and who finds a creative way to solve it, leaving everyone’s dignity in tact, and even leaving them feeling happy and proud that they were part of the solution?
I’ve been thinking about which of these people I am most like. I hate to say it but I think I have been like both. I have had times when I have stubbornly taken a position and stuck to it even though it was not the best path to a mutually satisfying solution. Other times I have been able to be more creative (and pleasant). Looking back, the times when I have been stubborn, even when they have ended in a ‘win’ for me, have not felt good. The fleeting win never left me feeling like a winner.
If I had the choice, I would choose to have ‘guy who may or may not have had a few drinks’ on my team. I’d love to work with someone who had the ability to think on his feet and to come up with a winning solution that improved the feeling of the whole team.
This week, you will no doubt be faced with a frustrating or challenging situation. My inquiry for you is, ‘Is this the win I am looking for?’
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