On being … accused of being stubborn

By Ingrid Sapona

The past few years a friend and I have participated in a team sport and have been on the same team. Our player-coach headed two teams: the Red Team, which played in the Monday league, and the Blue Team, which played in the Wednesday league. We were on the Red Team. This year the sport’s organizers decided to only have games on Thursdays. By way of e-mail, earlier this spring the coach asked us all (members of both teams) what we wanted to do, given this change.

Because my friend has another regular social engagement, she’s unavailable on Thursdays. I confided to my friend that I suspected that if the members of the Blue Team are all available on Thursdays, the coach would go with the Blue Team. My rationale was that there’s no point in splitting the teams to form a new one for Thursday nights, if one of the teams could make the switch. That’s exactly how it panned out and about a month ago the coach told us she decided to go with the Blue Team.

I completely understood (and expected) the decision and was fine with it. Indeed, I was even a bit relieved because last season there were many nights I came home after a game feeling rather beat up. After the decision was made, I shared my mild relief with my friend. Though she was less content with the decision, she understood it too, especially given her unavailability on Thursdays. After that, my friend and I talked about the fact that it might be fun to get together and do other things on Monday nights. We also agreed that if we found we really missed not playing, on any given Monday we could try to sub on other teams who might be shorthanded.

Well, just as the season was to begin, we got word that the organizers decided to go back to the old format of two leagues – one on Mondays and one on Thursdays. So, our coach e-mailed us to ask if we wanted to play on Mondays, starting in the second week of the season. Before either one of us responded to the coach, we discussed it.

Unlike my friend, who was keen to commit to playing on Mondays, I was torn. I had mentally adjusted to having the season off and I was looking forward to being able to schedule other activities on Monday nights. My friend, who wanted the two of us to commit to the team, pointed out that during the course of the season there would likely be games called off due to bad weather, so we could do something on those evenings. It was clear she wanted me to agree to play and she was irritated that I wasn’t jumping at the idea.

I then suggested a possible compromise: since the season is broken into three series, perhaps we could sit out the first series (since it was very short notice) but we could offer to play in the second and third series, if the coach wants us. Of course, as I pointed out to my friend, the risk with this “solution” is that players from the Blue Team might be willing to play on Mondays and Thursdays, in which case we may well not be needed later in the season. That was a risk I was willing to take.

Though, at first, she seemed to like my idea, it soon became clear my friend didn’t want to take that chance – she wanted to commit to the whole season. We went back and forth a few more times and when it didn’t seem we’d reach agreement, I tried to put an end to the discussion by saying we’re both entitled to our own decision. Frustrated, she then accused me of being inflexible and stubborn. The comment stung and my initial reaction was to refute the labels. But, I could understand why my not wanting to continue discussing it might have seemed stubborn to her and I didn’t think she said it to hurt me.

Instead, I explained the way I see it, which is that our disagreement really boils down to the fact that each of us simply wants to have it our way, which I think is simple human nature. The coach wanted to field as cohesive a team as she could, which is why she decided to go with the Blue Team initially. My friend wanted to be able to play on the night she was free. And I wanted to be able to sit out part of the season. Unfortunately, as my friend’s comment made it clear, it’s also human nature to get upset when you realize that the end result of everyone wanting to have it their way is that chances are no one will get 100% of what they want. But, the way I see it – even if holding fast to your decision makes you seem stubborn and ultimately means you only get some of what you want, that’s still better than agreeing to do something you don’t want to do.

© 2014 Ingrid Sapona


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