Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Winning is not everything.

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. Wilma Rudolph
Remember when you were little and parents and teachers told you, "Be a good loser." And then, in the next breath, they said, "Don't cry." Why not? Losing hurts.

It's important to let the pain out. To clear the senses to find the truth of where you're at.

I felt like I had lost a battle last Thursday with a woman who believes she is absolutely, completely, totally in the right. When I spoke to her Thursday, there was her truth, and only her truth. I know there's both her truth and my truth in this situation, and that somewhere in the middle there is a common ground where the truths overlap into something resembling a win/win. She didn't want a win/win. Winning isn't important to her. Not losing is.

Finding a solution is important to me. I had to find a common ground. To reach it, I accepted 100% accountability for my role in creating the mix-up and asked, "How can we make this right."

"You can do what you said you would do in the first place," she replied.

Ahhhh. Now there's the problem. I didn't commit to doing what she believes I did. I took a breath. There was absolutely no benefit in trying to convince her she was 'wrong' in what she believed to be right.

"I hear you say this is important, and the reasons you gave as to why it is make sense. We are a charity. We can't afford to do what you ask, however, if I can find someone to donate what you need, I will make sure it happens. All I can promise is that I will do my best. I can't guarantee I'll be successful, but if I can do it without it costing the agency additional monies I will."

The outcome that she controls is significant for the homeless shelter where I work. Being right is a luxury I don't need. What I need is to have a successful outcome with what we need from this woman.

I got to work and found someone to donate what we needed. In organizing its receipt, however, I found her lie. It is a big one. Significant. In fact, in that lie lays the truth of why she is so upset about this situation and why she is so adamant that I am 'wrong'.

I hadn't gone looking for a lie. I was looking for a solution and had phoned an organization to see if they could help. And there it was. The lie. Big. Fat. Juicy. And oh so beautiful to see.

I hung up the phone and almost did a dance of glee. I hadn't committed to what she said. I couldn't have, given what she had already done.

And that's when I had to be a good 'loser'.

See, I wanted to phone her and call her on her lie. I wanted to slam the truth against her forehead and nail it to her brow and then stomp on her toe for good measure. But that would not have gotten me more of what I want. That would not have gotten the shelter what it needs. And because I knew the enormity of her lie, I also recognized her for what she is: The lie. There is not sense in trying to make sense of what a liar does -- they're not interested in truth. They are only interested in protecting their ego.

I looked at my options. Exposing her as a liar at this moment in time is not one of them. I put the question out into the universe. "What can I do to create a win/win?"

The next morning I had my answer. I crafted an email to this woman asking for a resolution to the situation her lie had created. I didn't call her a liar. Didn't accuse her of anything. Just laid the facts out in one concise paragraph and let it go, explained how I could not proceed with what I needed to do to get what she had asked for until she cleared up what she had done.

I sent the email and awaited her response. Gleefully. I mean, I am only human. I love being 'right'.

Yesterday, I got her response. I didn't have to unmask her. Her 'character' is revealed in every word she wrote. And in her email, she made it possible for me to not do what she had insisted needed to be done to make the situation right. She cannot change what she has already done to make it possible.

In her response, however, she wrote paragraphs about what had gone wrong, giving timelines and details. It is distorted. The details manipulated to paint the picture she needs to be 'right'.

I wanted to refute everything she wrote. It is not necessary, nor effective. She is the lie. I am not powerful enough to change a liar. I am powerful enough to stand for my truth and to stop her lies from undermining my worth.

I took a deep breath and wrote back my response. One sentence. I dealt only with what I needed to do to ensure the agency got what it needed.

I can't change her. I can, however, cushion the impact her lies have on another human being. Her lie has serious consequences for another individual. I don't know this person but I do believe they would not want to be represented by the lies she has formulated in this situation.

What to do? What to do?

Yesterday afternoon I got my answer in the form of a phone call from an old friend. Because he was involved in the same business as this woman for years, I had called him for advice. He confirmed my suspicions. The person in the middle would not want what this woman is doing or saying to be connected to them. He gave me some ideas on how to approach both the individual and the situation.

I have my win/win.

See, at first blush I felt like I had lost. In accepting 100% responsibility for my role in this situation, she had projected it to mean I was 100% in the wrong. I didn't like having to be silent but knew I was dealing with a situation where right versus wrong battles would always end up with nobody winning. As she is the only person who can provide us what we need to meet our commitment in this situation, I had to keep in the dance with her.

I didn't like looking like I was 'giving in' to her manipulations. My ego wasn't happy. I could limit the impact of her untruths on me and the agency by limiting my contact to only discussing the business at hand, not the personalities, not the past, not the 'truth' as she perceives it to be.

And that was okay. I wasn't losing my integrity, my self-respect nor my truth.

She was. There is no better way to lose integrity, self-respect, dignity and your self-worth than to lie.

It is my experience with Conrad, the man who loved me to almost death, that taught me that.

And through that experience, I was able to see this woman for who she is, without getting caught in the trap of wondering about 'who am I?' and without getting caught in the dance of her drama. Her drama is, her drama. I can't change who she is. I can affect how who she is impacts me.

I don't have to accept her truth of who I am as being my truth. I can leave it sitting between us, let her dance around it, because in her view of who I am, she believes I am stupid. I don't want her to know the truth.

Because she needs to believe she cannot lose, there is nothing I can say or do that will appease her need to be right. Losing to her lies means nothing to my life. I learned that with Conrad. His lies only had a hold on me when I believed they were about me. When I accepted his lies as my truth I was lost.

Today, I stand tall. I stand proud. I don't have to lose everything to win in this situation. All I have to lose is my need to 'be right'. Dealing with a liar has nothing to do with right and wrong. It has everything to do with holding my integrity sacred.

It was a good lesson yesterday. A great opportunity to take all that I had lost in the past and turn it into winning today.

The question is: Are you willing to learn from those places where all appeared to be lost so that you can win today with your integrity, self-respect and self-worth intact?


Anonymous said...


The lesson I've gathered over time on this subject came from a former boss who said, 'Mark, when you play with skunks you get stinky.'

He was right, as you've proven.

As for calling someone on their misrepresentation, I've found a better way than the one you chose. Ignoring it and moving on saves time, keystrokes, angst and the risk that the unwinding of it all will come back to haunt - which these characters invariably do.


M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Mark -- I absolutely agree. That is the best practice.

In this instant, because of the delicacy and the importance of the outcome, I have to make this effort to ensure we achieve success.

I am not calling this woman on her stuff. I am ensuring her stuff doesn't mess up our outcome!

Thanks as always for your insight.