Sensational Living®

March 2005
© 2005 by Bret S. Beall


Well, this month it's time to return to my New Year's resolution to "go with the Flow." I think I'm doing rather a good job, if I do say-so myself.

I received some feedback wanting to know whether I would let people get away with anything, and just flow with that. Anyone who "really" knows me also knows that I don't let anyone get away with anything. If someone screws up, I'll call him/her on it (but "how" I call them on it is a mark of maturity). No, going with the Flow does not mean being a wimp, or a victim, or a doormat. It means paying attention to what your true priorities are, being open to change, understanding that there is more than one perspective, and then picking your battles! It means you are a winner!

Let's consider my recent shopping trip to Office Depot for some much-needed file folders (I am Mr. Organization, after all!). I was ecstatic to find them on sale at the rate of four boxes for $9. I only needed two boxes, so I was excited to get them for only $2.25 each! At checkout, the two boxes rang up at $9.98, at the regular price of $4.99 each; the clerk told me I had to buy four boxes to qualify for the discount. I had four choices: 1) I could pay the higher price, 2) I could point out and fight for the legally-required "each" price to be honored, 3) I could get two more boxes without arguing, thus qualifying for the illegally-presented sale, or 4) I could refuse to buy anything.

Paying the higher price was never an option for me, so we can eliminate option #1. I needed the file folders, so we can eliminate #4 (plus, I didn't have time to go elsewhere, which is technically another option, but I'm trying to streamline this discussion). So, I could either get two more boxes of file folders, which my rational mind told me I didn't need, but which would be going with the Flow, or I could fight for my legal right to purchase the folders at the "each" price of $2.25 rather than $4.99 for anything less than four boxes. There was a time when I would have done the latter, and I would have enjoyed "being right" SO MUCH. I would have skewered the management (which, in fact, I have done at this particular Office Depot when they wouldn't honor a price in their print ad; an email to national headquarters fixed THAT). I finally realized that if I got the four boxes of file folders, I would begin the massive task of subdividing some of my research files to make them more useful for my writings and consultations. Now I am truly grateful that resolving to go with the Flow not only kept me from being annoyingly argumentative, but also provided me with the resources to improve my service to clients. I won!

Then there was a recent altercation with an "unusual" neighbor (read my décor column this month for another "unusual neighbor" anecdote; I must be some sort of magnet!). From the time he and his family moved into my building last summer, he has been icy despite every attempt to be friendly and social (and it won't surprise you that I'm a very friendly person). I live in a building with a common laundry room, with some privately owned appliances, and some coin-operated machines. Since I try to live as simply as possible, I use the coin-operated machines; as does my icy neighbor and his family. And, since I'm always busy helping clients, my window of opportunity for doing laundry is limited in scope. One Sunday morning, I gathered up my laundry, took it downstairs, and encountered my icy neighbor exiting the laundry room. I made some comment like, "This is a busy place this morning, isn't it?" He grunted. I knew I had missed my window of opportunity, as he was using the coin-operated machines, so I left my laundry and returned to my home to water the plants. While watering, I saw my neighbor and his entire family get into their car and drive away. After about 45 minutes (20 minutes after the duration of a wash cycle), my neighbors had not yet returned, so I went downstairs, carefully removed their laundry to their laundry basket (which I placed on the dryer), and proceeded to do my washing.

My neighbors soon returned home. I heard the guy go downstairs, then I heard him come up the stairs. I was working in the kitchen, and was totally surprised to hear a loud "BANG" and to see my outer porch door come flying open at just the moment the guy was walking up the stairs; the wind wasn't blowing, so I knew that he had kicked in or punched open my door! I was taken aback. I knew my wash cycle was probably done, so I started gathering my materials to dry the laundry. I was at the back door when my neighbor once again descended the stairs, so I said (avoiding directly blaming him for anything), "Excuse me. My porch door flew open when you walked by before. Is there something we should discuss?" His response? "If you're having problems with your door, don't talk to me about it." That response made no sense if he were innocent, so I knew I was dealing with someone with mental/psychological problems. I'll admit that this was one of the few times when I have felt some anxiety in dealing with another human being; I'm perfectly able to defend myself, but I knew that discretion was the better part of valor in this situation. My neighbor was exhibiting victim mentality, and so I chose to go with the Flow, to let him wallow in his illness, rather than escalating the situation.

I knew I was "in the right," but in this situation, I found that I had no need or desire to "win." What would I have gained from that? Truthfully, my neighbor would never have acquiesced in any way. All I would have gained was unnecessary stress. A talk with another neighbor revealed that icy neighbor had shared other aspects of his history with her, consistent with my armchair diagnosis of his mental illness and psychological pain. Once again, I chose to not engage in a "battle." I chose to reduce my stress, to go with the Flow. I chose to not need to win!

Ultimately, by avoiding unnecessary conflict, I did win! I won peace of mind. I won lower stress levels. I won calmness and compassion. I won by preserving the tenuous relationship of non-confrontation I have with this neighbor. And I did all of this without being a victim, a wimp, or a doormat. I did it by "going with the Flow," and being a winner!

Do you have a story about being a winner rather than a fighter? I'd like to hear about it at 773.508.9208 or email me. And if you are a fighter (as I used to be), just ask yourself if that type of "winning" was worth the price. For me, it hasn't been, but I'd enjoy hearing your perspectives! Peace.