Unusually for the start of my blog I’ve not just been walking alongside the river in Richmond, I’ve not come back from my Hypnotherapy practice and I’ve definitely not been running. No, I’m sitting alone in a pub near Chelsea Harbour drinking non-alcoholic beer. I’ve been here for about 45 minutes, waiting to meet some old friends who are coming later than expected. Which gives me the opportunity to write.

And I want to write about the game of Scrabble™.

The other night my partner suggested that rather than watching a movie we sit and play a game of Scrabble. She’s fiercely competitive and I also enjoy winning. I knew I was in trouble when, before even a tile had been laid down, she said, “I know you’ll probably wipe the floor with me”. Hmm.

We chose our tiles and picked a letter to determine who went first. And so we played. I love words but I’m always amazed (and slightly disappointed) at how few I seem to know when faced with those seven tiles. The first game was tight and we both played carefully, making sure that we didn’t open up the board too much to the other. Because of this it was a game with lots of short words, using the few opportunities that were open to us.

I lost the first game.

I always enjoy raising the stakes so I suggested that we play the best of three games and whoever lost gets to make the tea in the morning twice in a row. The second game was similar to the first except my range of tiles went from virtually all consonants to all vowels.

I lost the second game.

So we knew who was making the tea for the next two days, but we wanted to play the third game. So we continued as we had with the first two – carefully, cautiously and giving as little away as possible. And then we ran into an issue – neither of us could go. We were both stuck and we weren’t anywhere near running out of tiles. We had consider other options. We could both replace all of our tiles and try to continue with new letters; it’s the obvious thing to do and sensible at that point. Instead we decided to see what we could each do with what we had collectively. We both showed our tiles to see whether the other could see a word somewhere. And we could. We also decided that if we wanted to continue enjoying the game we would need to open the board up by both being willing to take risks that allowed some space for the other to play. So we did that as well. We were still playing against each other, but we had shifted our mindset so that we could both continue enjoying the game. Because that was the whole reason for playing – to enjoy our evening together.

It really made me think about how many other situations I choose to see in a competitive way. What might I gain if I looked at them differently? What if I looked at them not as a threat but as an opportunity? What if I thought about the bigger goal, as well as my own?
There’s nothing wrong with competing, or winning – but everyone losing makes little sense.

It’s not that I haven’t been taught or read about this before. My training as a therapist made me understand the importance of looking at things in a different way, and has been a part of many philosophies and approaches, from the Stoics onwards. But this experience really brought it home to me.

I won the final game. And I made tea for the next two mornings.