My reply to the nasty note left on my car
YOU ARE PARKED IN AN ILLEGAL LOCATION CAUSING OBSTRUCTION TO OWNERS/TENANTS OF NOS 34 & 36.
PHOTOS HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO FORWARD TO COUNCIL RANGERS AND POLICE.
IF YOU CONTINUE PARKING IN THIS LOCATION THIS EVIDENCE WILL BE FORWARDED ON.
A CONCERNED RESIDENT”
Wow. That is some note. The punctuation choices alone are somewhat menacing, let alone the evidence taking, threats, and the anonymity. This is an example of relationship frames in action (which we talked about in our last post on Waleed Aly’s response to Sonia Kruger). Consciously or not, this delightful neighbour has established an ‘us versus them’ frame. They’ve positioned themselves as an adversary and me as the enemy.This is a different way they could have approached it:
welcome to the neighbourhood.
I just wanted to let you know that parking in this spot makes it quite tricky
for us when backing out of our driveway.
It would be great if you could avoid parking here if possible.
Thanks so much,
So back to that nasty note, how to reply? Are you already mentally drafting a witty and cutting response? Isn’t it so tempting to match the aggression and raise it? The reason for that is that complementary behaviour is the norm, we’re hardwired to match it. We tend to match hostility with hostility, warmth with warmth, defensiveness with defensiveness, and so on. A recent episode of NPR podcast Invisibilia ‘Flip the Script‘ explores just how hard it is to respond with what neuroscientists call non-complementary behaviour, and how powerful it is if we can.
So I decided to give it a go. This was my reply which I put in the letterbox:
thank you for your note. Being new around here I didn’t realise this.
Of course I’m happy to avoid parking next to your driveway
if it’s causing problems,
And guess what? It felt good.So, some tips to flip the script:
1. Change your body language – if a conversation is becoming tense, people instinctively start to become defensive in their body language. When you feel this happening, open your arms right out, even turning your palms upward to convey openness. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has; we’re highly tuned in to these messages at a subconscious level.
2. Shift from blame to problem solving – we can get stuck assessing who’s at fault, but often it doesn’t really matter. Sounds crazy, but right and wrong is not always important. Guide the conversation to what we can do going forward.
3. Carefully manage your tone – without realising it, sometimes our tone reinforces the negativity we want to avoid. Use inclusive language (we and us) which unites, rather than you/me language which divides.
And it you want to read the ultimate battle of neighbourly notes, read this. Old but still seriously funny.
… Read one thing, make it this excellent summary of fixed/growth mindsets. This is a powerful concept which we often use in our client work. It’s also very useful for parents to nurture a growth mindset in their kids, which is strongly linked to higher resilience.
… Read two things, this is a very funny article about how to look smart in meetings. Our favourite:
Really, fare well. (Isn’t that a nice word?)