Q. I asked a good friend if she wanted to help me put together a July 4th celebration, saying I had a nearby park in mind for the venue. She agreed. Now, just weeks away, she wants the celebration to be held in her back yard and I never had that in mind. I think she agreed to help with an ulterior motive in mindto show off her new house! My brain wants to just tell her, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll do it on my own.”

A. When something goes wrong it is often human nature to assume that the other individual had an “ulterior motive.” This may be true in some cases. Individuals have agreed to participate in order to “do harm” or “override another’s preferences” or “to get their own way.” Many times, however, these differences of opinion have to do with brain function. People do “hear” and “perceive” information against the backdrop of their own past experiences and personal preferences. To be the devil’s advocate, her brain may have been excited about her new house and energized with the thought of working on a July 4th celebration. If she even really absorbed your comment about the park venue, it may not have been high in her working memory.

You need to make a decision here about what is the best long-term solution. Ask yourself:

  1. When you asked for her help, were you really clear about where you wanted the event to be held? She may not have even “heard” that detail or failed to realize that the venue was important to you. Ask her what she heard and the benefits she perceives of holding the celebration in a home versus a partk?
  1. How important is the venue? Will there be children present who would do much better with a park playground? If not, what would be the down side to holding it at her home?
  1. Is this a friendship you value and want to maintain? Friendships often involve compromise. “Thanks, but no thanks¾I’ll do it on my own,” may result in a fractured relationship that may or may not be easily repaired. If it is really important for her to show off her new home is that a problem for you and, if so, how is it a problem?
  1. What have you learned from this experience that can help you avoid a similar situation in the future?