Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Disturbing Neighbor

When I moved into my home 13 years ago, I was thrilled to be living on a dead end street. Ah, peace and quiet! Imagine how disheartened I was to discover I lived two houses away from a teenage rock star wannabe!

Every evening, his band would rehearse in his garage for hours. The cacophony of noise that emanated from his makeshift studio was nothing short of unmerciful.

His garage faced my bedroom window (which I left opened) so the noise filtered into my room long after I retired for the evening. This was not working for me. Yet I knew that legally he had every right to practice and I had no recourse. Or did I? I decided to take matters into my own hands and confront him. However, I am wise enough to know the proper steps to take to gain his cooperation.

First, I checked my attitude. I needed to make sure that I was calm and relaxed. If I was angry and frustrated, that would be reflected in the way I spoke to him.
Next, I needed to see things through his eyes: a young man with dreams of being a rock star. That's actually an admirable quality. He could have been on some street corner doing drugs.
Third, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he didn't realize the noise was a problem for me. After all, how many times are we oblivious to how our behavior effects others?

I also knew it was important to establish a commonality, some interest or characteristic we shared. That acts like a bonding agent.
And I needed to be fair and reasonable in what I was requesting of him.

So, I took the necessary steps and approached him one evening. I introduced myself and asked about his music. He shared how he and his band were trying to get some gigs and ultimately a record deal. I congratulated him on his dreams and wished him luck. I mentioned my love of music as well. We had established a nice rapport.

Then I made my request: I explained how the noise interfered with my ability to sleep when it went beyond 11pm. I asked if he could help me out by perhaps closing the garage doors. To my pleasant surprise, he apologized and agreed to my suggestion. I thanked him and we parted on good terms. Problem solved.

When we treat one another with dignity and fairness, resolving our differences becomes effortless.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Maintaining Personal Excellence

One of my private clients has serious issues with anger, or perhaps I should say with "nastiness". She's pleasant most of the time but she makes it clear that if someone is rude to her she can dish it out even worse. "I can get really ugly when I have to," she declares, as if she's proud of it.

How often do we react to someone's bad behavior with more of the same? Someone cuts you off on the highway and you give them the finger. Your brother misses your wedding so you retaliate by not attending his baby's christening.

Sadly, many people allow their behavior to be determined by what others say or do. And to make matters worse, they offer lame excuses to justify their actions. "I criticized you because you said something hurtful to me first."

Doesn't this sound reminiscent of eight-year olds? "You pushed me so I pushed you back!" One can make allowances for a young child's lack of maturity and good judgment. But one is expected to outgrow this behavior by adulthood. Unfortunately, some do not.

Does two adults behaving badly ever improve a situation? To the best of my knowledge it doesn't. Therefore, it is critical for each individual to set and maintain their own personal standard of excellence and never relinquish to another's poor behavior.

If I am honest, I remain honest even in the face of lies.
If I am kind, when others are thoughtless, I set the example of kindness.
My generosity does not falter to another's selfishness.
If I am a respectful person, then I maintain that standard even, and especially, with those who are rude.

If your external behavior is not congruent with your intrinsic values, you will create internal conflict. And when you are in a state of turmoil, you cannot be at peace.

Set your standards of excellence high. ~ Never lower them for anyone.
Let others aspire to be like you. ~ Maintain your personal excellence.
Be the example for others to follow.


My client is proud of her behavior. For me, I'd be ashamed.


If you like this article, read "Built Tough", Newsletter entry, March 9, 2010