One of the most vitriolic kinds of legal action in the UK is neighbourhood disputes and I understand why. We like to think our home is our castle - we escape to it - and when we cannot enjoy that space because of an intrusion, perceived or otherwise, we become emotional.
The neighbour to our right was working outside on his shed and felt the need to have heavy metal music blaring as he did it. I should say first that this is someone who we have not connected to very well and I knew that any action I took was not going to be welcomed.
The reason I am writing is that I went through many scenarios in my head before doing anything, all ending with him ignoring me or turning the radio up. And most of those scenarios involved me giving him some kind of 'good reason' why he should comply with my request such as:
- we have guests (we did but she was out)
- my partner is on nights and trying to sleep (he could have been but not this week)
- someone is ill and needs to sleep (not true either)
I wondered why I was making up these lies when actually the person upset by it was ME. It was a mix of being unassertive in general and not feeling as important as other people I was bringing into the mix - the same thing I suppose. I also considered doing nothing and putting up with it. What I realised was that I could put up with it after trying something and failing so why start with that option...? That could be option 2.
So what did I do in the end? I shouted across the trees and fence ...... 's'il vous plait?' He turned and glared at me. I continued in my best French something about 'moins fort' and he continued to glare at me. I wondered if he had understood but if my French was not clear, my gesticulation should have been (miming turning down a radio, nothing else!). He walked over to the shed and for a few minutes nothing happened. I retreated into the house to take option 2 - try to put up with it. I told myself that on a different day and maybe with a different neighbour I could have appreciated Bon Jovi but on this day I was just in need of peace and quiet.
So what happened? After about 1 long minute he turned it down. Not massively but he turned it down to a level that was bearable and in about 10 minutes he turned it off altogether. Today it is on again but at the lower level.
What I learned was that it is worth saying politely what you want and that usually people will change their behaviour if they think it is reasonable. But they will never change anything if you do not tell them.
This is the same at work when we give feedback. Not always pleasant, but how can we expect the person to change if we do not show them our perspective and the impact they have?
So I am trying to be reasonable whilst making sure I have good boundaries. Hope that is useful to someone.