I mentioned last week that I recently had the good fortune to get to visit England recently. I talked about how driving on the left really highlighted the different aspects in the process of change. Well, I had another of those types of observations while I was there.
I often work with couples who are in conflict because they have very different styles. They approach things from very different, often opposite, ways. This can lead to lots of frustrations when each person feels the other is doing something the wrong way. But the truth is that there are often many different ways to approach the same issue. What I try to help couples understand is that they have a choice. They can either let their differences create conflict, or, they can learn to use their differences cooperatively to be stronger.
That’s one of the lessons that was really exemplified for me on this trip. I was travelling with my sister. I love my sister dearly but there are many ways in which we are very different. One of them is our approach to travel.
My sister is a planner. I’m not. She likes to research and organize and schedule and arrange. I prefer to get some general information and then wing it. I’m not someone that thinks half of the fun a trip is planning it!
We knew this difference going in so we dealt with it directly. We agreed that she could schedule many of our days as much as she wanted. In exchange I had certain days where I wanted nothing scheduled, where we would just make decisions as we went. And we added a safety valve…I could always opt out of some of her plans if I felt the need.
So how did it work out? We got the best of both worlds. Because of my sister’s research and planning I got to go on a guided hike across lands owned by my ancestors in the 1500’s and discover a castle ruins. I got to see a bust of my 11th great grandfather and the church where he is buried. I got to climb up a mist-shrouded hill, through a field of 3 foot high ferns to discover the remains of a 4,000 year old standing stone circle.
But not planning had some perks, too. In London we stumbled across a small restaurant and had Lebanese food which was amazing. In Glastonbury we found out from one of our B&B hosts that Chris Jagger, Mick’s brother, often plays in a local pub and was playing that night. And when I stopped in to see the proprietors of a former B&B I had stayed in, we got invited to participate in a Druid ceremony to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox.
So, what could have turned out to be a trip filled with constant struggles about how to do things instead turned into an amazing experience. All because we combined the strengths of each of our styles. We trusted each other enough to allow each of us to do things our own way some of the time. Think about that in your relationships. Are you using your differences to be stronger or are you spending your energy wanting to do it your way? Try working together…amazing things might happen.