“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” – Five Man Electrical Band (1971)
In this week’s post “How to Autopsy a Conflict,” we here at Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT) addressed some of the methods which our conflict consultant (and many other mediators and peace practitioners in the field) use to examine conflicts almost after the fact.
There are many ways of communicating in the world today and a conflict communication situation came to us recently and we’d like to address it here, for the benefit of our readers.
In any conflict, both parties have three options in how they can choose to communicate:
- They can be nonassertive “What good would it do to speak up?” Or, “Whatever you decide is fine with me.”
- They can be passive aggressive: “I’m going to spy on you and then tell on you later to a person or entity up the ladder.”
- They can be aggressive: “I am the boss. What I say goes.”
There is an apartment complex in Binghamton, NY, somewhere around the NYSEG stadium where the Binghamton Mets play. This apartment complex has on the street parking.
Typically, a friend of ours (for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll refer to him as C.) parks all the way up to the sign that reads this:
In essence, his selfish act of kindness, provides somewhere near an extra half to full space requirement for the vehicle behind his to park on what is a crowded, on-street parking, apartment living situation.
Now, one would expect such largesse to eventually be rewarded and acknowledged. And it is:
The person who wrote this…well…let’s get a direct quote from C. about this:
“This person clearly has a f—king problem.” (We had to edit that, we’ve got kids reading over our shoulders as we write this.)
Profanity aside, the head consultant here at HSCT agrees. As a matter of fact, we would call this type of communication passive aggressive at best.
Since we are about solutions to this, we have about three for you, our dear reader, our friend C., and the note leaver, that may help alleviate issues like this in the future:
In a previous post, (click here) we addressed getting to know your neighbor.
This would be our recommended course of action in this situation. You may key a stranger’s car, but not a friend’s.
Assertive, not aggressive, communication is the key. A note, left under a windshield with a message on it, provides the first, subtle message that escalation is not only OK, but preferable and acceptable.
Intimidation, fear, closed-off-ness, and anxiety are all present in this note and lay deep in the subtext of C’s feelings as well as his verbalized response.
The antidotes for all of those are collaboration through mutual understanding, clarification of perspectives and by having a rigid goal, but being flexible in the means to get there.
Finally, if you just can’t correct the parking situation on your own, call in a third party: A good friend, the police or the conflict communication and resolution professionals at HSCT.
We’ll take care of it all, from notes to nuts.
Originally published on July 10, 2013.
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