Having coffee with a friend yesterday, the subject of how to make a peanut butter and jelly (PB & J) sandwich came up. Her family spreads a layer of jelly followed by a layer of peanut butter and then folds the bread. In my family, we spread jelly on one slice of bread and peanut butter on another. Then we put the two slices together. I wonder how many ways there are to make a PB & J sandwich? But that is not the point. Our discussion made me think about how often I see people criticize how other people do things.
So who do you think is making the PB & J correctly? Who is right and who is goofing the whole thing up? Your answer depends on your perspective. Ask yourself if it matters how the PB & J sandwich is made as long as the outcome is the same? If you end up with a good PB & J sandwich, what difference does it make how it got made?
Why would we argue about this when it is so clearly a preference? Yet, people do. They make big deals about small things. Why? Do we like to argue about things that don’t matter because we are bored and need some excitement in our lives? Or is it because our egos are so big we always have to be right and everyone else has to be wrong? Or is it just the opposite? We feel so badly about ourselves that attempting to put other people down helps us feel better about ourselves?
We all could learn from my adopted Mom who is teaching me to be a Southern lady. She says, “The relationship is more important than what you have to say.” Before discussing the issue at hand, she has taught me, it is important to solidify the relationship first. That means in addition to introducing yourself, you talk about the weather or ask how the other person is. Spend a few minutes chatting about anything that gives you both time to warm up to each other. This approach is foreign to me. I learned to be direct when I wanted something. I’ve tried it my mom’s way, and I found I liked the results. When I did get to the subject at hand, it seemed easier to resolve the problem. If I asked her which family was making the PB & J sandwich correctly, I know she would answer in the Southern drawl I love, “Why would y’all jeopardize the relationship by arguing over something so trivial?”
So next time someone tells you they do something differently than you do, keep an open mind. Maybe the way they are doing is not how you would do it, but it works for them. If the outcome is the same, why argue about the process of getting there? Better yet, you might learn you like their methods better than your own. I know next time I make a PB & J sandwich I might try it my friend’s way. What’s the worst that can happen? I go back to my way. And the best? I might like it!