Room 911: The Bickering Bickersons Bicker Bust

Today was the day of reckoning. Phyllis and Murray would have to learn to listen to each other respectfully, or I could no longer work on their house.{{more}} I came to think of their abode as “Fifty Shades of Purple.” My task wouldn’t be easy either, as I had to employ patience, tact, and “you both have a good point” (Diplomacy 101).

I wanted to scream “what were you thinking?” as the house had every shade of purple known to man, and the chaos created by Murray in the entryway became a prototype for learning to run interference in a football game. Knocking on the front door, I immediately found the Bickersons, smiling at me.

“Oh, Mrs. S, Murray and I had a long talk and we realized we were behaving childishly. Isn’t that so, darling?” remarked Phyllis.

“If you say so, dear. You’re always right,” sighed Murray.

“That sounds sarcastic to me, sweetheart”, retorted Mrs. B.

“Well, I can’t remember ever hearing you say that I am ever right.”

“Don’t you remember on New Year’s Eve 1989 showing our family videos to the 15 assembled guests instead of watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve Show? Good going, Murray.”

“That’s my point exactly and…”

“Stop it, please” I begged. “Let’s sit down and see if you are really serious about restaging your house. None of this will happen unless you are both willing to follow these basic rules.”

1. Listen to the other person. Repeat what he/she has said in other words.

2. No sarcasm. No one-upmanship. No making disparaging remarks.

3. Keep an open mind.

Here is what I will promise you as your restager/decorator.

1. I will listen non-judgmentally.

2. I will give you my expertise and explain the reasoning behind each decision I make.

3. I will understand and respect that it is your house, and try to bring out the very best in it.

“You know Mrs. S, let’s sit down at the kitchen table and you could give us an example of what you mean” said Phyllis.

As she poured some tea, I decided that I would ask Murray why he had the train set smack dab in the middle of the foyer. I told him that nothing he said would be wrong, and that I was more interested in his feelings. And then he began:

“When I was a little boy, all I really wanted for Christmas was a Lionel train set. My younger brothers got everything on their wish list.

As the eldest, I was expected to understand because they were younger.

I never got my train set that Christmas or any other one. I swore to myself that someday I would have the best train set where everyone could see it” he said.

“Oh Murray, you never told me that story. How sad for you, and what a disappointment it must have been for you all those Christmases,”said Phyllis tearing up.

At the next appointment, we would listen to Phyllis’ side of the story.

I was beyond curious to know what the meaning “purple” had in her life.

Tedra Schneider is the founder of reStage, a division of Tedra Associates, Inc. She can be reached at