Growing up my mom had an axiom for just about everything. I remember not wanting to take my sister to school:
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Or arguing about having to go to a birthday party where one of the class “mean girls” would surely be: “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Or, how about the day I came home disappointed with a grade: “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Of course, I would give the requisite eye roll, and think “she just doesn’t understand.”
My mom was right.
We make mountains out of molehills all the time. It’s about resistance. It’s the things we don’t want to to do — sometimes it’s situations that take us beyond our comfort level, situations that make us squirm. Sometimes it’s fear of what “might be,” fear of repercussions. Or sometimes we just plan don’t want to do it.
But here’s the thing. The bigger we make the mountain, the bigger the ditch we dig.
I was reminded of this recently listening to a conversation between a couple at my local diner. (Okay, eavesdropping — but they were speaking so loudly it was impossible to not listen!) The young woman asked her boyfriend to go to her company bbq. “All your work friends will be there.” “What if they don’t like me?” “What am I going to do?” “What do you do besides eat?” Before you knew it he was in the throes of a bonafide temper tantrum. Soon there was silence and both parties were now sitting with arms crossed, unhappy and angry.
The invitation, “Will you go to my company bbq?” became a mountain. The ditch that got dug to create the mountain now holds the emotional runoff. I could envision my mom leaning toward the young man and saying, “You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.”
Next time you feel this happening, stop talking.
Take a breather. It doesn’t matter on which side of the table you sit. If you are creating the mountain think for a moment, “What am I afraid of? Am I setting up an unnecessary obstacle? What’s the worst-case scenario?” Chances are that if you stop and think you’ll see that “yes” might be scary, but it might also be very necessary for your success — whether it’s with a relationship or at work.
And what if you are sitting across from someone making a mountain out of a molehill?
Leading him or her to “yes” with a compromise might just do the trick. Rather than making her boyfriend feel trapped at an afternoon company bbq, the solution might be, “Let’s go for an hour. If you’re really uncomfortable we’ll leave.” Chances are the answer would be, “yes.”