I never thought that pizza could teach me so much about life

Several times throughout the year I have looked up from my desk only to be greeted by a number of students peering through my window with proud smiles on their faces.  After waving them in I have been pleasantly surprised to be presented with a plate of their latest creation from their Food Technology Class.

Similar to ‘Master Chef’ the eager students presented their dishes for judgment and presented me with a feedback sheet. I am not sure what qualifications are required for such a role but group by group they made their way up from the kitchen to have me judge their work.

On one particular day the dish they had prepared was pizza. The first group arrived at my door with their lukewarm slices that I could only assume were pieced together by every single set of hands in the group and as I bit into a piece I thought to myself  “I hope they wore gloves.” As they stood there and watched me chew, studying my facial expressions to get a glimpse of what feedback may be coming their way, I saw the sense of pride they had in what they had created and put before me.

The first group put a lot of effort into making their sauce. It was thick, rich, infused with herbs and it was spread all the way to the edge of the crust. When I asked them about their sauce it was clear that they thought this was the most important part of the pizza. “Without a good sauce,” they said “a pizza is just no good.”

The next group had smirks on their faces as I tested theirs out. It only took about 5 seconds to realise that this group liked chilli! They wanted their pizza to pack a punch. They thought flavour was the most important aspect of a pizza.

A third group presented possibly the most well ordered pizza toppings I had ever seen. Presentation was apparently what they were most interested in.

The fourth and final group I judged that day made a gluten free pizza with a base made from cauliflower. I approached it with a sense of apprehension but was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and went back for extra bites. For this group, the most important thing was having a healthy option.

Each group had their own thoughts about what was the most important ingredient or ingredients on a pizza. All of them argued their points and each group was passionate about their unique dish. Unlike Gordon Ramsay I found it very difficult to pass judgment. But when I did, and I wrote down my scores on the feedback sheet alongside the scores of the other judges, I found that although each judge liked pizza they had very different ideas of what was most important.

Later that night, with my mouth still tingling from the chilli topping I had eaten six hours earlier, I reflected on the whole experience.

The pizza episode was similar to other issues we come across in life. I think most people in our community agree about most things most of the time. For example, a pizza needs a base, a sauce and some toppings. That’s what makes it a pizza. We can all agree with that. Where we get stuck is on the finer details.

We see this all around us in life. In families, politics, churches, workplaces we all tend to agree on 90% of things we are doing or are trying to achieve but it is the other 10% that we spend all our time and energy arguing over. When we get stuck focussing on the 10% we disagree on, we can lose track of the things that bring us together and everything can break down.

Finding the common ground on which to agree or connect is such an important part of managing conflict or difficult situations. John Maxwell, author of ‘Winning with People,’ goes so far as to say you should find the 1% of things you agree on and give that 100% of your effort. If we spend our time and energy in our relationships at home, work, church, sports teams, etc, focusing on the things we agree on, then when we get to the point of disagreeing, the relationship is strong enough to handle it and we see those things for what they are. Small.

Here are some questions to consider:

Do you have any difficult relationships or situations where you are trying to get someone to change their mind or do it your way? Up to now, have you used a common-ground approach to building the relationship before trying to initiate change? What are the things that you and the other person can agree on? How can you use that as a springboard for improving the relationship? How can you then take steps toward change that will benefit both of you?

Although I love pizza and have my own opinions on what makes a great one, I never thought that pizza could teach me so much about life.

Thank you Pizza, thank you!