Learn to Laugh at Yourself

Sometimes it is my job to act as a mediator at meetings. I guide teams to find commonalities where before they only saw differences. Common ground helps people work together.

One morning, I was participating in a contentious meeting. The two groups had shared their viewpoints when one woman voiced her displeasure with the process. She informed me the meeting was a big waste of time. I was not surprised when she had more to say. She opened her mouth and I thought, “Here we go.” In a condescending tone of voice she continued, “Did you know you have two different color shoes on?” Huh. Wasn’t expecting that one.

I looked down at my feet and sure enough, I had one brown and one black shoe. Not only were they different colors, they were different styles and heights. That explained the uncomfortable sprint from the parking lot to the meeting room. One mystery solved.

I turned back to the woman and exploded with laughter. I mean, come on. This was hysterical. I laughed until tears dripped from my eyes. After catching my breath I cleared my throat and said calmly, “No. I had not realized I was wearing two different shoes. Thank you for pointing it out.” The meeting resumed with everyone smiling and making allowances for me. The common ground for this meeting became me. The idiot they had to deal with as they developed an acceptable solution.

Later that morning I told an office coworker my story. Still laughing, she ran from the room calling over her shoulder, “Hold on a minute.” She came back with a digital camera and snapped a picture of my feet. Just my feet. She stores this picture on her computer and every so often opens it up and laughs. Then she reminds me she is keeping the picture for my future retirement party. Great. I really need to figure out her password.

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