Friday, August 16, 2013

The Neighbor Next Door — 3 Ways to Douse the Flames of Conflict

I have written early and often about how to solve neighbor disputes involving dogs.

Today I give you the 3 Ways to Douse the Flames of Conflict that ignite a bonfire of discomfort as one neighbor addresses a problem with another.

First-Don’t have this conversation while one or the other of the parties is angry.
Second – Listen before speaking
Third – Use the term WE

First-Don’t have this conversation while one or the other of the party is angry.

If you are angry and need to tell the neighbor just what you think about their barking dog or the comments they’ve made about your dog - STOP!  No one can hear what you are saying.  The fire of passion in anger cannot be doused with reasoned offerings.  Try to wait until you are calm enough to speak or they are calm enough to listen.  If you can listen and ask questions that further your knowledge and understanding of the problem, great.  Don’t attempt to reason with anyone on fire with the passion of his or her position.

Second – Listen before speaking

It will always serve you well to do more listening than speaking.  People often talk themselves out or find their own solution if you allow them uninterrupted speech.  They need to tell you how they feel and a simple, “I understand you” may diffuse the flames more than a discussion on ‘why you are right and they are wrong’.  Listening is an underutilized, yet powerful tool in the arsenal of conflict resolution.  Solutions come from conversations that start with silence.

Third – Use the term WE

It is not your problem.  So why are you telling me?  I can’t stand it.  These are three of the New Philosophies Lucy sings about in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.  I also hear them used in mediations.  As silly as they may seem in the song and as committed as Lucy is to her New Philology, they are jokes and not meant to be used as a means of settling a conflict.  Understanding that the problem belongs to both parties, not one more than the other, is key to finding a lasting solution.  One person says, I am super sensitive to dogs barking, the other says, I think of it as white noise.  How can either side reconcile their diametrically opposed understandings and beliefs?  By sharing the problem they can share the solution.  It starts with the right question.  What can we do together to find a solution?

By Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

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