I recently came across an article in the New York Times that promised a recipe for cooking “velvety, custardy, soft-scrambled eggs.” What I found fascinating was the variety of comments (and strong opinions!) that followed. Here are some highlights:
- No egg recipe is good unless you’re using eggs laid by free-roaming chickens exposed to roosters.
- These recipes of eggs cooked in cream and butter are a cardiologist’s true nightmare.
- I’m certain this is delicious, but is there any consideration given to the nutritional aspects of cooking eggs in heavy cream? Aren’t there enough overweight cholesterol-laden people out there?
- For those with an apparent pathological fear of cream or any other fat, join the real world! You will not perish from an occasional indulgence, whether it’s these eggs or ice cream.
- No to nonstick pans, thank you!
- Creamy scrambled eggs are a disgusting failure that I’ve always avoided as much as possible.
- Those look gross. I don’t like runny scrambled eggs.
- Doesn’t matter how you cook them as long as you smother them in ketchup afterward.
- No ketchup, please! A fresh tomato, sliced, with a piece of feta cheese is perfection.
- Never came across a human who doesn’t know how to cook eggs. It’s basically the easiest thing in the world to cook. Why is this an article?
- Pu’leeze, just make the eggs. Adding cream and then writing about it are two unnecessary acts.
Did I mention this was an article about scrambled eggs? In the food section? People were passionate not only about how they cooked their eggs, but also about how others should eat their eggs! And, apparently, whether people should even write an article about eggs.
In the workplace, we also have our own different ideas about what constitutes the “best” way of doing things. Here are a few areas where I’ve heard people voice their opinions over the years:
- Begin meetings with an icebreaker to connect with your colleagues
- Get into the meeting agenda quickly to maximize the valuable time together
- Start your day with regular tasks and routines for best results
- Leave the morning unstructured to maximize your energy and creativity
- Give new hires detailed instructions
- Let new hires learn on their own first and ask questions
- Track your to-dos electronically with Asana or Trello
- Nothing beats old school pen and paper with a sticky note or notebook
How to deal with other people’s preferences
Here’s the thing: there’s rarely one best way of doing anything. More often than not, people have different styles or preferred ways of doing things. We often assume that our way of doing things is the best for everyone, based on our personal beliefs, values, experiences, and perceptions of what is rational and logical.
That level of self-awareness – of knowing what works best for us – can be incredibly valuable.
Transferring that self-awareness and thinking that everyone should have the same preference — or will achieve the same results if they just do it our way? That’s where things get tricky. And judgy, like the comments section of that article.
Just because someone’s preference is different, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Or wrong. It’s just different!
If someone states their preferences, we get to choose how we respond. Here are some possibilities:
- We could spend time wishing they liked their eggs “eggs-actly” the same way we do (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
- We could complain that adding extraneous ingredients is a waste of time.
- We could try to convince people their eggs would taste so-much-better if they did them our way.
But all this would ultimately be a waste of time and energy – as the other person is unlikely to change (or even take our perspective seriously) anyway!
What might be different if we just let people cook their eggs how they want to. The Thoughtfully Fit practice of Flexibility challenges us to stretch to accept other people just as they are. It’s important to note here that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean approval – it just means you accept that the other person’s preferences are different and that you can’t change them.
When you practice Flexibility, your focus shifts from what you wish would be different about the other person to what you can control.
Simply put, you can control what you say and what you do. You control where you choose to put your energy. You can’t control other people. And you definitely can’t control other people’s preferences, anymore than you can control your own. (Did you choose to love or hate ketchup with your eggs? Of course not!)
So what does all of this mean for you and your team?
Bringing Flexibility to your Team
In a work environment, this could mean accepting that your direct report likes to work to deadlines, even though you like to get ahead of things. Alternatively, it could mean accepting that your office manager likes cubicles, even though you’d prefer a more open layout. Or it could mean accepting that your colleague prefers to focus on the big picture, while you prefer to focus on the details. Or they prefer to work at night, even though you do your best work before sunrise.
But what if people are cooking their eggs in too much butter?
What if they don’t like ketchup on their eggs?
There’s a difference between doing something wrong and doing things differently – and sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.
Simply put, if they aren’t asking you to eat the eggs they are preparing, don’t worry about their eggs. Practice Flexibility and accept their preferences for what they are. Let them eat their eggs in peace and don’t let it take up any more of your energy!
If you want to bring this type of acceptance to your relationships, try the following workout:
- Pause: The next time you notice someone doing things differently, hit the Pause button.
- Think: Is this person wrong or do they simply have a different preference?
- Act: Try stretching to accept their preference. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it.
Oh, and just for the record, scrambled eggs with cream cheese mixed in will always be the best for me! 😉
And it’s ok if you disagree.