Hand Them a Bucket and a Mop

It was a great story, and one that I think we can all relate to…and have been on both sides of, which makes it humbling as well as entertaining.

I was working with a client of mine and we were chatting about a situation she had recently found extremely frustrating with her partner. Pretext to this conversation – she is a fixer, solver, and solution person. She has spent her entire professional career and family position fixing and creating ways for goals to be accomplished, profits to be reached, and a general what I call a “bridge builder” (how do we get that done) type. Her partner is a hard work ethic person, to the point that perhaps if things aren’t hard enough, they’ll find ways to make them harder so they can feel better about themselves when they’re done. I was raised by these same people. There is a special place in heaven for those that work really really hard, according to my parents and perhaps this client’s partner. Let’s start from there.

Her partner was outside power washing the house and once they were totally invested in the project, they recognized there was more cleaning that needed to be done. Now, my client is a smart cookie, so when they purchased their power washer, they bought a really nice model complete with a soap dispenser as part of the unit. So, the realization came that the soffits needed to be washed as well as the house and her partner asked her to leave the project she was on and go and get them a bucket of water and mop so they could wash the soffit…remember the super-nice power washer?  So, she said to them, “Use the soap dispenser on the washer”. And then it started, the back and forth of why they couldn’t because they didn’t know how to use that part, my client trying to show them, while they refused to be educated, the suggestion of a Google search, and instruction reading, and it was all over.

“I was so frustrated!”, she said, “It would’ve been so simple to just use the stupid soap dispenser!”


“So”, I asked, “What did you do”?

“I stormed into the house and thought about how dumb they were being” she responded, exasperated.

“So, I started again, “What, perhaps, could you have done”?

“Done it for them? Teach them how to use it?”

I laughed, “How about giving them a mop and a bucket?”

She stopped. “What?! The machine HAS a washer!”

“Yes, it does. But does that mean they HAVE to use it?” I asked.

Her confusion was clear and then it hit. “Oh for Pete’s sake, what was I thinking?” and then she laughed too.

So often we see what can be done, and how it can be done, and immediately wonder what is wrong with the person who doesn’t see it the way we do.  While it’s great to be helpful, to make positive helpful suggestions, just as often the person we’re talking to wants to do it the way they want to do it. Sometimes, in fact, oftentimes, it doesn’t matter if the other way is faster or easier, or smarter, or less work – they’re going to do it the way they’re convinced it should be done. God bless us all!

Our hearts are in the right place, but our ego-mind is definitely not where it belongs. We think because we think it’s a better way, our way, it should be the way. And also, we need to remember that people can do what they can do. It’s not personal, they’re not insulting us, they’re not telling us we’re wrong, it is honestly, not about us at all. It’s about them. They are doing what they can do the way their habitual mind is convinced it needs to be done.

We all operate on a set of beliefs and values based on our previous experiences. All of us. She was a fixer, her partner has a “hard work” story that needs to be fulfilled. Both are beautiful in their own way. They both serve great purposes in this world and are both amazing accomplished people. Both are “right”.

Sometimes we need to recognize that what folks are doing is what they can do based on stories inside of them we may or may not know anything about. Their values are their values and as long as the only thing impacted is how arduous a task cleaning the outside of the house is, it’s all good. No harm, no foul.

Let’s have some grace. It’s not personal. Them rejecting our way is about what they can do, not what we have to give, or what our fixer needs to have its needs met. We don’t belong in it unless we’re invited, and even then, be aware of when you’re taking over, or telling someone how it should be done based on our needs.  We’re all just trying to keep things straight inside of ourselves, let’s remember that.

This is the exchange in every moment of life; it is NOT you vs. them/that thing. It is each and every one of us having our own needs and desires, and what it takes for us to feel fulfilled and purposeful. Keep that in mind.

Then just give them a bucket and mop.

Forever the journey, Anne

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