It’s been a very strange week and a bit of an eye-opener to be honest one way and another. So, I will share my story with you in the hope that it might inspire you or others to look completely differently at a conflict situation.
Where I live there have been ‘problems’ with the Residents’ Association (RA) for as long as I can remember. In a mixed nationality community where language is often the biggest issue, it is so easy to create, make and remain in conflict situations, so much so at the end of several years you really can’t even remember what it was all about.
I had become so complacent about this RA that I had taken the attitude more or less, ‘oh so what let them all get on with it’ and had stopped even going to the annual meetings.
Of course, there was an awful atmosphere all the time, because all of you can remember I am sure a game we used to play as kids, called Chinese Whispers? Remember? It is telling a short sentence in a group and then whispering to the person next to you and going around until the circle is complete. A short sentence like “I have a red ball”, can often come to an end with ‘I have a purple giraffe”. This is because we all have filters not only in the way we perceive or hear something but more how we then make our own interpretation. I think basically this was what was wrong with our RA and of course language difficulties were present too. And you know how people just love to gossip! Some even thrive on it.
I had always considered myself to be a friend of one of the people who lives here and when my husband died, he was, without any doubt, absolutely a great help. After 40 years of having everything literally taken out of my hands, I was totally hopeless with any form of DIY and to be honest did not have a clue. He helped me and I was, of course, extremely grateful for the help and said that on many occasions.
Then last summer his wife suddenly started to ignore me, if I walked past, turning her back or going inside. In other words, doing absolutely everything she could to just avoid me full stop. I asked her husband several times, ‘what is the matter, is she ill’? (Actually, meaning is she going a bit dement?) And he replied that she had a communication/contact disorder! Ok I thought, so be it.
Then I spoke to him just before Christmas and then the same thing happened again, and I knew he was purposely avoiding me at all costs. He used to ‘pop in’ regularly a couple of times a week and then ‘zilch’, he never came anymore, which was OK, and I was extremely busy with a lot of things, including picking up my life alone once more and creating opportunities to meet other people, learning Bridge every week and all in all – expanding my boundaries.
So, it is now mid-March and I have neither seen or spoken to him since before Christmas which is to put it mildly a bit strange. But then came the confrontation. He was at our communal letter box, collecting mail and I was on the way out with my dog who then walked past with his lead in such a way I had to stop. And of course, seeing eyes that were literally spitting fire I asked – when are you going to be brave and tell me what the matter is? Which is a perfectly normal conversation isn’t it? I honestly wish I had never asked and untangled the dog’s lead and walked on because the conversation that then happened was just dreadful and he was shouting and swearing and accusing me of such ridiculous things, I then began to think, maybe he is becoming dement too?) He was ‘f-ing and blinding’ and in such a fit of rage he was literally shaking, and I began to realize that he is as mad as a hatter and that I should move on. It was when he brought my own daughter into the conversation and accused her too that I was so angry I thought, I must walk on before I really want to ‘clock him’ one! (Which I would not have done of course, but you know the feeling I am sure).
This resulted in a couple of sleepless nights for me, mulling over what had been said and I will tell you that if I had done anything wrong, which I hadn’t, I would be the first to say that and sorry too.
So, what next? More sleepless night and then my daughter suggested try and have a conversation. Er I don’t think so, one time in a week was more than enough, so I plucked up courage and went to have a chat with the Chairperson of our RA.
It was not an easy conversation to start or even continue, considering the atmosphere which has been going on here for years, but I kept to the present day moment and every time anything from the past was mentioned, repeated, I did not come here to talk about the past and who did what, I came to just tell you this has happened to me and I have been unfairly accused of something I did not do and my daughter did not do either. I felt a bit threated to be honest and said so.
This conversation went on for more than an hour and I stood there firmly not getting drawn into any other subjects like ‘ he said this, he said that and so on’, just my own story and my feelings about it and I did say that I honestly felt that I had seriously misjudged my so-called friend over the years, because on reflection, he had always been involved in each and every conflict situation. And yes, come on, don’t we all know better by now? That as long as we keep dealing with one another in duality, conflict, anger, blame etc. etc., then this world is never going to improve one iota, is it?
At the end of the conversation I said, thank you for your time and for listening and she said that she thought I was extremely brave to come and talk and that it was time to let ‘bygones be bygones’, and we shook hands. We don’t have to be having coffee with one another every five minutes, but at least the end situation is, the RA know and if there are problems, I can let them know.
As I walked away and said thank you again, I came home with the feeling that a huge turning point had been reached. It has not solved the problems with the man I talked about in my story or his wife, but it is more than obvious that he is a troublemaker and always involved in any conflict situation and some of the stories are quite awful, which I won’t go into.
So, my advice what to do in a long standing, ever brewing conflict situation is this: Be brave, be courageous and take the first step. I could have had the door slammed in my face, but that did not happen (thankfully). It is in your best interests to honestly share your vulnerability and say sorry. You cannot change the past but at least you can make an effort to put the past in the past, where it belongs and agree to move forward from this NOW moment and try to improve situations which have been festering for years.
Not easy, believe me! But I think it the only way forward and I am sure that a lot of you reading this, will find yourselves in similar situations and it all ends up in unnecessary stress and sleepless nights, when you could have done things maybe differently.
Saying sorry or admitting that you were wrong is one of the hardest things to do but if you are brave and do it, it leads to respect that you were courageous and honest and apologized and took the initiative to move forward. Isn’t that the best solution then?