It was a few weeks before my husband, Mike, died. He woke from his nap snickering. “What is it, Sweetie?” He smiled and said he’d had a funny dream, “I was in a fight with a priest over my croissant.”
At the time, Mike was barely eating. I could coax him to eat a few bits of an almond croissant from the local bakery. It wasn’t surprising that he would dream about eating a croissant.
“The priest was trying to steal my croissant,” he laughed. Immediately, I came up with a story about the dream. I think – “Wow, that’s complex. The priest could be a symbol of the next life and the croissant a symbol of sustenance or even his soul. It seemed obvious and powerful to me.”
“Sweetie, that’s remarkable. Who won the fight?”
“I did,” he grinned and his eyes twinkled.
“Well, that’s good. What do you think the croissant represents?”
He was quiet, thoughtful and then, shrugging his shoulders dismissively he said, “Nothing in particular. It’s just a croissant.”
Have you ever made more of something than the situation warranted like I did with the croissant? All too frequently, we take a simple event and create something big out of it.
Maybe you are left out of a key meeting. You think, “Wow, why didn’t they invite me to that meeting? They must not think I’m relevant to the discussion. Don’t they know that I’ve done all the background work on this? This really bothers me!” And before long, we have created a story that’s bigger than the real situation.
Maybe your boss seems disinterested and you are convinced that she doesn’t like you; doesn’t think your work is good; will never consider you for that promotion and on and on.
Or maybe a co-worker makes a comment that hits you the wrong way. All too quickly, you think: “That was rude, he doesn’t like me, he is inconsiderate” or any number of attributes that you ascribe to the comment.
As we make the “croissant” into something bigger than it is, we fail to consider that the comment may have meant nothing at all. Maybe that co-worker’s dog chewed up the new rug that morning, their kid brought home a disappointing report card, or they didn’t sleep well the night before. Anything could contribute to their comment but we quickly develop a story around it about us.
The process in our head goes like this:
- We take a situation and create a story.
- Then we imbue those in our story with characteristics that we’ve created to fit the story.
- And, we believe that we are right.
Before long we create a deep, complex, unflattering story when it was just a croissant. Instead,
- Consider all the possibilities for the situation. We all have many factors in our life that contribute to tone, word choice and attitude. Pause long enough before you create the story to take in the range of possibilities.
- Consider what you know about that person. How likely is it that they are truly being rude or inconsiderate? How likely is it that you’re really doing a bad job and your boss is dissatisfied? If there isn’t a pattern, then don’t create a story when it doesn’t fit.
- It’s not about you. We are each the centerpiece of the story in our heads but we are not likely to be the centerpiece of the story in other people’s heads, particularly in the workplace.
What are you making more of than needed? How can you look at the situation in a different light that gives people the benefit of the doubt? Remember, the croissant is probably just a croissant.
Photo Credit: annete / 123RF Stock Photo