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Getting your own way

confessions of a realistic pollyanna

There once was a boy named George. Being an only child, George was lonely. He often wished for a sibling to play with but he would remain an only child. So George liked to have his school friends over to play. There was just one problem. As an only child, George was able to play by his own rules. He didn't have to worry what other children thought when he was playing by himself. But when he had friends over, sometimes his friends had different ideas of what they wanted to play. They disagreed sometimes with George's suggestions. George was frustrated by this. He was used to getting his own way. So he would complain to his parents, "Henry won't play the way I want him to." But much to George's surprise, his parents told George that he and his friends would have to work it out with his friends. He would have to negotiate with his friends to find play activities that they both could relate to and could both enjoy. He had a choice, to play alone where he could set all of the rules, or to play with others where he would have to learn to get along.

As human beings, we are called to live in relationship with one another. Relationships though take some work. We must be willing to talk to the other, listen to the other, talk about what things are negotiable and what things are sacred. We will have to explore areas of agreement and areas of disagreement. To make a relationship work, means learning how to deal with those things that we disagree with each other about. If we can't find compromises to important areas of disagreement, then we need to work extra hard on our relationship.

In a professional environment, one of the ways that we learn to work in relationship together is through meetings. Meetings are a chance to express how we feel on a subject and to listen to the viewpoints of others. In meetings, some people come quite prepared. They have done the readings, they are prepared to speak on what excites them about a proposal and what concerns them. Others come to meetings only because they have to come. Some come not prepared. Some will talk much, whether they know something or not. Some rarely speak, but when they do, they speak words of great wisdom. Some never say anything, and just vote when they are called to do so. Some are part of meetings because they have been with the organisation since time began whether they contributions our worthwhile or not. I find that meetings that are run well, ensure that everyone has a chance to speak, and in the end everyone can own the decision even if they don't fully agree with it. Meetings that are not run well, leave some people unheard and unvalued. Meetings that are run well don't necessarily please everybody, but at least they can feel that they have made a valuable contribution to the process.


Maybe modern day politicians could learn something if they heard the story about George and tried to have positive meetings. In many of our global democracies, if a government has a majority in the parliament, they seem to feel they have carte blanche authority to ram through legislation. They don't listen to the others because they have the parliamentary numbers to squash the opposition. But when they lose their majority, governments find that they have to work with others to govern. In Canada, the Liberal government still must work with a Conservative senate. In the US, Trump must now work with an opposition held House of Representatives. In the UK Teresa May must try to work with opposition parties to pass legislation. In Australia, the Coalition must find support from the Cross Bench or face loss of confidence. May they realise that like George, that they need to compromise. May they realise that like people in a relationship, that they need to practise some give and take. May they realise that like a meeting, it takes everyone working together to make the best solutions. Blessings.

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