One beautiful evening, Joe and I had come home from spending time with my parents. Joe walked across the street to get our mail from the mailbox. Our neighbor, with his wife in the passenger seat, pulled out of their curb-side parking in front of their townhouse and turned to pull up next to Joe.
Joe turned, smiled and waved.
As Joe walked back across the street, our neighbor rolls his window down and asks in an aggressive tone, “So, what’s the deal with the parking here?”
Joe, not exactly clear on the question or on his tone, says, “What do you mean? It’s street parking in front of the townhouses. You park your car there.”
Neighbor replies angrily, “So, you can just park anywhere you want?”
Neighbor: “Well, your blue car is always parking in front of our house and it’s only your house that parks wherever you want.”
The blue car is my son’s car. My son and I both park on the street.
Joe responds, as nicely as possible at this point, “Our son parks wherever he can get a spot. Sometimes, my wife and he have no place to park and have to park around the corner. You just park where you can.”
That seemed to steam up our neighbor even more. He went on to yell about how we’re not neighborly, how we never answer our door, how he brought us cookies and he got nothing back, and it just went on and on.
So, our first reactions were to be angry. Furious. How dare he! Joe was shaking with anger as he walked away. I asked Matt to park in the overflow spaces from now on. He was fine with it.
My first reaction was, why didn’t he just ask us to have Matt not park there? Why did he come in guns blazing ready for a fight? Why in the world did it have to escalate into such a dispute?
But my rant is not about why he treated us poorly nor about whether he was right or wrong about his angst.
When confronted with something like this, where you want to easily take the defensive, I like to remember the following phrase:
“Just like me, this person wants respect.”
“Just like me, this person wants to be heard.”
Fill in the blank with whatever you want. The phrase “Just like me” grounds you in empathy. That person that attacks you for no good reason, likely has shit going on in their life that has nothing to do with you. They’ll take it out on you. It’s not fair. But if you have the awareness to take a step back. Notice yourself being triggered and observe what’s going on. You can say to yourself, “Just like me, this person ____”
This doesn’t mean you have to like the person or tolerate the abuse. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to angry. It just humanizes the person enough for you to react in a less heated way and to let it go. Because it is so easy to dwell on heated disputes, isn’t it? We want to tell everyone how awful that person was to us. We pull out the victim card and show everyone how badly we were mistreated.
That does not serve us well. What if we ignored our ego and simply responded in kindness. Instead of strengthening the negative energy? What might happen? What if Joe responded with, “I would be so happy to tell Matt to park in the overflow spots. In fact, I’m going to go tell him right now. Have an amazing night!” And walk away.
The neighbor would still be furious because that’s where he wants to be. But Joe would have felt so much better. We can’t control what other people do, say or feel. But we can work on how we react to them.
The next time someone blows up at you, pretend that person has a child in the hospital for chemo treatments. You’d think differently of that person immediately. I was that crazy person a few times when the stress of Kelley in the hospital was too much. I snapped. I yelled at the elementary school’s admin. I was THAT ass hole.
There are two sides to everything. Our neighbor is a really nice guy. I can not imagine that his anger started with the parking space. It was likely one more thing in whatever was going in his life at that moment. He probably still thinks we’re jerks, but I honestly hope he feels better soon.
Talk to you tomorrow!
PS. Sharing is giving which is just good karma. Share this post so that others can benefit from this positive message. Thanks in advance 🙂
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