For many of us our own space is precious. We love to have somewhere relaxing that we can retreat to when the world seems overwhelming, however it’s not always easy to find peace and quiet when we need it. Increasingly we live and work surrounded by large numbers of other people and our neighbors and colleagues do not always share our desire for peace and quiet.
If you want a quiet evening at home but your next door neighbors are throwing a party it’s easy to become resentful, angry or distressed. But we believe that by reassessing some of your own core values you can dramatically improve your own level of happiness and create healthy relationships with many more of the people round about you.
Why should I walk a mile in their shoes when I know they’re wrong?
We live in what is essentially a domination or domestication culture. In this culture we learn to identify who’s right and who’s wrong, who is acting inappropriately and who is not. Because of this, when something happens we tend to immediately focus our attention on who’s right in the situation and who needs to change their behavior or apologize for being wrong.
Having a conversation with another person when you believe that you’re right (justified in your opinion) and that the other person is wrong (they are a bad neighbor and should behave in more appropriate ways) usually creates an outcome where no one is completely satisfied.
Such discussions often lead to resentment and hurt feelings, and even when both parties are relatively calm and relaxed a conversation based on the assumption that one of you is in the wrong is unlikely to result in a happy outcome.
To reach a conclusion which satisfies everyone it’s important to begin your discussion from a more neutral place. You can start by asking yourself, Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? This is by no means about giving up on what’s important to you it’s simply about letting go of your right or wrong mentality.
From this place of neutrality you will be able to explore the other person’s mindset. Ask yourself questions such as:
What’s important to me in this situation?
What’s important to them in this situation?
What strategies can we come up with together that might work for everyone?
When you have a conversation with someone, starting with an explorer’s mindset lets them know that you don’t just care about what’s important to you you also care about what’s important to them. This sort of thinking encourages people to gain respect for one another’s needs and enables a greater level of cooperation.
So, when faced with a situation which may upset or enrage you, stop and decide to be an explorer. Consider these possibilities:
You may want peace on a Sunday morning but your neighbor is delighted to see her children playing so well together out in the fresh air.
You may have had a long day but your neighbors want to celebrate their engagement.
You’re too busy to chat at work but your colleague feels lonely and is talking to you in an attempt to reach out to someone.
In these situations, classifying one party as right and the other as wrong will most likely just complicate the situation.
When addressing similar issues, explore the other person’s motives. We suggest talking to them, discussing what’s important to them and what’s important to you. The goal is to brainstorm a solution that works equally well for both of you.
What if I only have one chance of happiness?
There may be times when cooperation is difficult perhaps you have a neighbor who is not prepared to compromise or perhaps you have become so attached to one particular strategy for solving the problem that alternatives are not apparent to you.
In this situation, you may be certain that you know the only answer to the issue and the only way in which you will ever regain your happiness. You believe that you cannot be truly content until, for example, your neighbor’s dog stops barking or your colleague stops their incessant talking. You may well be experiencing a sense of powerlessness, believing that there is only one solution and feeling that there is nothing more you can do to achieve it.
You free yourself from a sense of powerlessness by developing the ability to recognize and choose between different options. Below are the two steps you need to take to regain your personal power:
Identify what you value that’s missing from this situation. Identify which of your personal values cause you to want your neighbor or your co-worker to be quiet. The free values exercise on our website can support you through this process.
Once you begin your investigation you may identify that peace and harmony are very important to you or you may discover that caring, consideration and understanding are what you value. You could identify any number of other personal values that are also deeply important to you.
Identify new strategies for achieving what you value.
As soon as you have your list of personal values, we recommend you put them in order of importance then see how many strategies you can come up with that will help you have more of what you want in your life, regardless of the behavior of the people around you.
As an example, if you find that you are seeking greater peace and harmony you may come up with strategies such as wearing earplugs at night or playing relaxing music which drowns out the noise. You may find that moving to another apartment is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself right now.
The point here is not for us to give you the answers. The suggestions above may not be suitable for you and your situation. Instead, creatively explore as many ways as you can think of to experience what you value regardless of your neighbors and co-workers.
Once you realize there’s more than one possible way in which you can be satisfied a whole new world will open up to you. As we often say, what you focus your attention on grows. If you’re focused on screaming children or loud parties you will tend to attract more of that into your awareness and your experience.
When you focus your attention on your own underlying values and begin to find ways in which you can align with your values you will start attracting more of what you truly want into your life.