Dealing with Conflict: A Personal Experience

My husband and I recently moved into a condo.  We love our new home.  It suits us perfectly.  We are within walking distance of great restaurants, the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball stadium, The Forks and Osborne Village.  But, as the old expression goes, nothing is perfect, and we’ve discovered our little fly in the ointment.

The parking spots are in the back and are quite narrow.  Thankfully, I drive a small car, which gives me a little bit of wiggle room on either side.  Wrong!  Since moving in, two very nasty notes have been left on my windshield.  They are written in black marker and include phrases like ‘stop infringing on my space’, ‘smarten up or else’ and ‘the management company will be called’.

I do try to hit the middle, but freely admit I sometimes miss dead center.  It’s not so far over that it infringes on anyone else’s space though.

The first note I just chalked up to a bad day. We all have them.  In hindsight, I realize that perhaps the writer (who did not leave a name, but did leave a condo number) took that as disrespectful.  When the second note was left on my car, I saw red.  The hostility, the threats and the implied accusation that I was deliberately missing center angered me.  Fortunately, one thing I have mastered is to NEVER, EVER respond when emotions are high.

One initial, entirely inappropriate suggestion my husband had, which is brilliant in a passive-aggressive kind of way, was to rent a Hummer for a week or so. That would show ‘em!  But once I took a step back (ok, a lot of steps back) and got my emotions under control, I was able to look at the situation more calmly.

The condo owner is older and does not have a car.  When friends come over, they use the owner’s parking spot.  Some of the friends are also older and a few drive big cars.  Getting a large car into a small spot is challenging.  Is it my problem they choose to drive a big car?   No, but I can understand their frustration.

I reminded myself that I cannot control other people or their actions; I can only control mine.  I also needed to decide what was more important.  Striking back or peace?  Proving I was in the right or an amicable relationship with my neighbours?  I decided my goal was peace, with all my neighbours.  If that was my goal, how could I achieve it?

I apologized for the inconvenience, agreed that small parking spots are frustrating and extended an invitation to knock on our door or slip a note under our door if more room was needed. Hopefully that will bring an end to nasty notes and if not friendship, at least a cordial relationship.

Dealing with conflict is never fun.  When we are challenged, threatened or treated disrespectfully, resisting the urge to strike back is difficult.  Letting go of ego is difficult.  My three steps:  Breathe, get my emotions to neutral and focus on the goal.

What do you do when faced with conflict?