What type of person are you?
When I was younger, my brother and I used to play this game where you had to chose what type of person or thing you are between a binary choice of A or B?
It went like this…
Me, ‘What type of Ice-cream, Chocolate or Strawberry?’
My Bro, ‘Chocolate.’
My Bro, ‘What type of animal, a Tiger or a Giraffe?’
Me, ‘A Giraffe’
Me, ‘Would you rather be numbers or letter?’
My Bro, ‘Numbers’
My Bro, ‘Who would you rather be, James Bond or Tin Tin?’
And it went on until we couldn’t laugh any more.
The rules were kind of vague, and I never remember making any up. They just evolved in that childlike way.
But the rules were something like this…
You had to be fast, or the other person could shout ‘Too Slow’ and then laugh hysterically.
The choices following each other were not to be in the same category. So if he chose animals, then I had to choose something else. If I chose an animal or something in that category, he would shout ‘uh uh, the same’ and then break into fits of laughter.
A note here, we didn’t have any real idea of categories; it was all based on our loose knowledge of what we knew. At that age, it probably wasn’t much.
At any time, the other person could stop and ask for an explanation, and you had to be quick to explain yourself.
‘I chose a giraffe because I like the fact that they can eat the leaves from the top of the tree, and they can beat up a lion.’
Then there would be more hysterical laughter, doubt against the answer and a challenge, and then we might have to seek the aid of our mum or dad.
Mum and Dad were the kingmakers, but we would keep them out of it as much as possible because it was about speed, fun and being as ridiculous in your answer as you could be.
And also, Mum and Dad were too logical and pushed us on an explanation for our answer. We were too young for that adult logic.
Some of our explanations were just daft kid logic and made up so we could laugh, so avoiding a logical challenge was a base where we accepted each other’s stupid answers without due course of an investigation.
I am not sure what this done for my education, but it was hell of a funny, and we had a few moments in our adult life where we played the same game, and it was every bit as hilarious.
We grew up as two of a family of twelve children in an impoverished housing estate on Glasgow’s west side, not a lot of money but a heck of a great upbringing and a raucous world to grow up within.
The one thing that has maybe stuck with me throughout the game’s exercise is to drop into that binary way of thought or decision making.
All of this came flooding back to me this morning when the guy I quite often meet at the elevator again blocked my exit.
So let me explain; often, when I take the elevator down, he is waiting to take the elevator up. As the doors open, he is barging in before he allows me to exit.
It usually just him and I, and every time, the routine is the same.
He blocks me, and I edge past, then I wander away, muttering under my breath…
‘How many f*cking times before he gets the message that I need to get out before he can get in.’
A battle of wills. What are we men like!!
So I asked myself this morning. ‘What type of person am I? am I a person who positions myself at the elevator entrance to let people out first, or am I that person who stands upright at the entrance blocking everyone’s way?’
A binary choice. A or B. “A hat or a bra?”
Of course, there could be more to this fray.
He could be timing his day in such a way that he is running late and so in a rush every morning, maybe dropping the kids off at school first.
He could be expecting me to let him in before I get out, as that might be what he or his culture is used to doing.
He has settled for our process, and what happens every morning he is comfortable with and sees no problem.
Maybe he is just lost in his thoughts, worried about his unwell parents and how his concerns and worries affect his work, and he is struggling.
You see, life as an adult is not a straightforward binary choice.
There are always other factors and perspectives to consider.
Previously, I would always ask myself, is this a ‘yes or no’ choice, and for a while, that worked for me.
It got me so far in life.
‘Am I a Giraffe or Lion?’
‘Chocolate or Strawberry?’
Should I buy this or not? Should I do this or not?
Life and its choices are not a clean-cut binary choice. There are a lot of things to consider.
However, ultimately it comes down to a choice.
Like my framing before, ‘a yes or no choice.’
But it doesn’t have to be that simple. I have now given myself a third option.
The A or B was not enough as I went further into my life.
So I bolted on the possibility of tabling ‘a counter offer.’
So my new choices are ‘Yes, No, or my Counter Offer.’
A simple slowing of my thoughts to add in that alternative step in my decision-making now gives me an element of time to think.
“What is my counter offer?”
The speed of choice is mine to make, and it is not based on the hysterical call or pressure from my crazy brother.
So I am comfortable with the third selection, my counter offer.
Tomorrow, when that door opens. Rather than the stalemate, I will table my counter offer…
I will step aside and say ‘Good Morning’ as part of the jousting process, this is my counter offer.
I wrote this blog last night, ready to post today. But I now have an update on this:
This very morning the elevator doors opened, and I said ‘Good Morning’…
And guess what?
He stepped aside and let me out. (WTAF – as my daughter would post)
There is hope for us all when we move away from binary decision making and lean into a word of counter-offers that can help us understand each other…
…Who knows, it might just deliver World Peace.