Last week, my husband Ricardo told me about a bird who was building a nest under our second floor balcony directly over the door to the backyard patio. He was excited about seeing nature in action, especially since we’d just moved from a very urban part of town into Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek National Park neighborhood.
I didn’t think much about it the first time he mentioned it, but a couple days later when he texted me a photo of it, I immediately texted back starting a chain that went something like this:
Me: We should move it. It looks like it could easily fall off the ledge, and I can only imagine all the bird poop we’ll have to clean up.
Ricardo: I’ll clean up the bird poop. It’ll be fun to show the kids their first bird nest. Nature decided to put the nest here, so we should just let nature be.
Me: Nature naturally builds nests in nature, not on brick and metal. I think the baby birds would be safer in a nearby tree. What if they fall out onto the brick patio? That’s not great for the kids.
Ricardo: Ok, so why are you feeling the need to make a decision about something that I never asked to be a decision or conversation? I just wanted to share something beautiful from nature. And maybe the mother bird felt the love coming from our home and wanted to be close to us. It could be wonderful to watch and share with our family.
Here’s where I had a choice in how to respond. The knee-jerk reaction that came to me first was to continue the same line of thought that you see above, probably using different words. I’ve worked in environmental conservation for 16 years and I was being strongly pulled by the logic of the “conversation.” A narrow brick ledge with one wrought iron balcony “branch” over a hard brick patio wasn’t an ideal location for the safety of the little birds. I wrestled a bit with my values…why doesn’t he understand why I care about the safety of the birds? We can still have the family experience with nature if the nest is in a tree in the yard.
I thought about it for another minute and then choose to respond like this:
Me: You’re right. I’m sorry for not appreciating your joy for nature and love of family by immediately focusing on fixing something. I’ll call you so we can make sure we’re all good.
I called him, and not only was everything “all good” between us but he also thanked me for the act of love. He said, “You made yourself vulnerable, so it’s a little example that reminds me that you trust me. And that reminds me that I trust you. Your words also show me that I am the most important thing to you. Way more important than a bird nest.”
I made the right decision that morning but getting there wasn’t as easy as it may seem. Sometimes there’s something inside of us that wants to be right. Fighting that inner urge to keep fighting so you can be right because you believe in your position so much is SO hard.
You’ve heard the saying, “When in a hole, put the shovel down.” So why do we so often keep digging that hole deeper and deeper in our communications with others?
We keep digging when we need to be right. We put the shovel down when we want to win.
Let’s talk about what I mean by winning.
In the story of the bird nest, our relationship came first. That’s winning. It feels so much better than being right.