“Hi Anthony, Aunt Loretta here. Cousin Paul and Theresa are visiting me Dec. 16 so want to have a family dinner. Hope this date works. Please let me know soon. Thanks honey,” read the text she sent on Oct. 25.
I really wanted to go, as I haven’t seen all of them in a while, so I quickly shot back, “I’ll be there with the kids. Hopefully Marie can make sure she’s not working but, even if she is, I’ll come with the kids. What time? Thanks!”
Next, I sent my wife, who was at work, a text and then an evite to make sure I got on her calendar. I’m not sure about you, but in my house, if things don’t get on our calendars, there is little chance of coordination.
“My Xmas party is 7-11 PM in Hoboken”
“Fine. What night?” I respond.
“Yikes” I write back, and quickly call her.
“Hey. That’s the night of my aunt’s thing,” I said. “I sent you an evite.”
“But I really want to go to my hospital’s holiday party. I have to go,” she said.
“But I really want to go to my aunt’s thing. I haven’t seen them in a long time,” I said.
“Well, I don’t want to go my party alone. I want you to come with me,” she said.
“I know, but I already told my aunt I was coming,” I said.
“Well, I’m really upset. It’s my Christmas party,” she said.
“Let’s talk about tomorrow. Let me think about it,” I said.
As I stood there in the conference hallway, stuck between a rock and hard place, who should leave the concert and walk towards the hotel, but my good friend — and just about the perfect person to ask for advice on anything — Mr. Chuck Christian. I saw this as a sign from above and started walking alongside him.
“What’s up Anthony? How are you doing?”
“Great. Hey, I need some advice. “
“Oh,” he said.
“Well, my aunt asked me to come to her house because my cousin and his fiancé are in town from Utah, and I said yes. And now my wife tells me her Christmas party for work is the same night and she’s going to be really upset if I don’t go.”
“Welcome to being married, son,” he said.
“What should I do?” I asked.
“Well is there any way you can do both? Compromise?” he suggested.
“I don’t think so,” I said, and then listed all the reasons that came to mind.
“Well, why don’t you check? Talk to your aunt. Talk to your wife and see if you can come up with something that everyone can live with.”
As I walked away, I was slightly disappointed Chuck hadn’t just given me the answer so I didn’t have to do any more thinking. If he’d just said, “Oh, it’s obvious you need to do A,” that would have meant the end of my crisis. But have you ever noticed how wise people never do that? They reframe things to provide a new perspective and hand them back.
So now, I had compromise on my mind.
A few minutes later, I get three texts in quick succession my wife:
“Maybe you can leave your aunt’s early and meet me there. It’s from 7-11 PM.”
“Go there a littler earlier to spend time, and leave a little earlier.”
With Chuck having laid the groundwork in helping me see shades of gray, I started thinking. Well, my aunt’s is at 2 PM in Blackwood (NJ) and it will take about 2 hours to get there. In order to meet Marie by 8:30 PM (I’ll be a little late, but hopefully she can live with that) in Hoboken, I’ll have to leave my aunt’s at 6 PM to be safe. I’ll still have been there 4 hours, which is plenty good. The only issue here is I can’t bring the kids, otherwise I’ll have to drive all the way back home an hour north past Hoboken to drop them off, and then another hour back down. It doesn’t work with the kids going. Compromise. Compromise. Compromise.
So that became the plan. My in-laws would watch the kids at home. While my wife wasn’t thrilled with me arriving late to her party, she accepted it. And while I’m sure my aunt really wanted to see my kids, she accepted it. Everyone was relatively happy and my stress levels decreased dramatically.
It is amazing how often we see only binary options — it must either be A or B, because (fill in with any number of reasons). A few months ago, a sponsor of one of our webinars asked if the date could be changed. The request came after two very high level speakers were already booked and we had many attendees registered.
My first instinct and response (to Nancy at least) was “Impossible. Cannot be done.” But after thinking about how our sponsor would receive this communication, I said to Nancy, “Listen. Here’s what we’ll do. If we can somehow move BOTH speaker to the new date, we’ll do it. If we can only move one, we’ll have to keep the original date. I can almost guarantee you it won’t work.”
But to my absolute amazement both our speakers agreed on the new date. I was astounded and given another lesson in the art of the possible.
Most of the time what you think it impossible is, in fact, impossible. But every once in a while, the impossible turns out only to have been improbable. And do you know how to discern between the two? You try. You check. You run it up the flagpole.
When you hear: “I don’t think it will work,” or, “I doubt it can be done,” or, “There’s just no way,” respond with something like, “Well, just humor me and check,” or, “You’re probably right but just ask,” or something of that ilk. Often, there is little downside to actually finding out and, in doing so, you’ll either attain the miraculous or have a better answer for whomever wanted you to make the request.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of reframing.