In the spirituality of the Focolare, this sort of situation is addressed by the idea of trying to love other people in the ordinary circumstances of life: "be the first to love". Among themselves, and in their publications, those associated with the Focolare share stories of how they have tried to do this. The "Word in Action" feature of the August/September issue of their magazine New City contains this:
I'm studying in Budapest at the moment and live in a small flat let to me by a family. A friend of mine came to visit me recently and after lunch he did the washing up, leaving the knives and forks to dry with their handles facing upwards, different to how I would normally do it putting them with their handles down. I told him this, giving my reasons, and he explained why he did it his way.
As a result of this very simple experience it struck me that if I don't learn to be a little more flexible in my habits, I'll end up growing old with my head full of very good reasons for always doing things my way! From then on I started drying the cutlery with the handles facing upwards.
I came across something St Therese of Lisieux said to her sister Celine: "Before dying by the sword, let us die by pinpricks". And a pinprick can be a point of view which differs from my own, an insult, a disappointment, an official who behaves more like a robot than a person, a colleague who makes life difficult for me ...
A short time later I went to dinner with my friend's family. They didn't allow me to wash the dishes, but I was very surprised to see that they put the cutlery to dry with the handles facing downwards. We had a real laugh when I told them that I had changed how I dry the cutlery ... they had done exactly the same for me! Every time I manage to "lose my life", I experience such joy, such a freedom that makes it much easier for me to love the others.
My first thought, accompanied by considerable laughter (LOL, is I think the modern term): how someone dries their cutlery really isn't that important!
Second thought, also accompanied by laughter: what can someone who gets a towel and dries their cutlery straight away, without leaving it to drain at all, learn from this story?
Third thought, more serious this time: a privilege of living on my own is that I can stick to my habits, or at least to some of them.
Fourth thought: reflecting on my trade union experience, that a practice of these small and, in themselves insiginificant, acts helps to create a situation in the workplace where potentially problematic situations are addressed in the ordinary intercourse of daily life, and so don't become problems at all.
The million dollar question: the next time I have visitor to my home, will I leave the washing up to drain or not?