My friend tugged on the silverware drawer. It groaned in protest and refused to budge.
We were staying at an Airbnb, which meant learning the quirks of a new house—which floorboards creaked, how to operate the shower…and how to open the silverware drawer.
“Be gentle,” I suggested.
She gave the drawer another yank, harder than the previous tug. “I’m trying to get it open,” she replied, as the drawer lurched open and the whole cabinet creaked under the pressure.
“I know, be gentle,” I repeated, though by this time it was a moot point. “It’ll open.”
“I just didn’t know how else to make it open,” my friend said, choosing a spoon and stirring her tea.
Why is our first reaction, when we face resistance of some kind, to try harder?
As soon as the drawer didn’t open like she’d anticipated, my friend doubled down, applying more pressure.
And though I knew the secret to successfully opening the drawer was to ease up a little, as I’d tried to tell her, I’d learned this only after giving it a few determined yanks earlier in the day. I’d experimented a bit more and discovered that, while the drawer would eventually open regardless which approach you chose, yanking to hard on it actually increased the “stuck” factor—which meant that I then had to pull even harder to prevail.
It seems built into our DNA, somehow, that harder is better is successful.
But what if it’s not? What if the path to success is actually a gentle one?
What if, when we choose to white-knuckle the process, we actually just get in our own way?