Do you consider yourself as someone who argues a lot? Do you avoid your neighbors to reduce conflicts?
The word “argument” is best defined as, “an oral disagreement, verbal opposition, or discussion involving differing points of view.” Often when we think of an argument, thoughts of a person yelling or saying put-downs comes to mind. Arguments can take place in any person to person dynamic.
A team at Lund University studied the impact of arguments on health. They conducted a long-range study gathering data on ten thousand Danish adults ages 36-52 in 2000 regarding their relationships and social lifestyles. Individuals answered questions about conflicts with partners, children, other family, friends, and neighbors. They found that middle-aged adults who frequently argued with their partners were more than twice as likely to die at a relatively young age, compared to people who rarely fought. Frequent confrontations with friends were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely than those who got along with their peers. Even more surprising, these researchers found a specific group with whom arguing should be avoided at all costs. Can you guess who? Neighbors. Neighbors who argue are three times more likely to die prematurely than neighbors who get along.
A study led by Keith Sanford from Baylor University sought to identify, what was most important to people during an argument. The two main underlying concerns during conflicts include:
Perceived Neglect – one person feels as though the other is being inattentive or disloyal.
Perceived Threat – one person feels as though the other is being too critical or demanding. Here, the partner is hostile, critical, blaming, or controlling.
When neighborly conflict arises, it tends to be driven by these two perceptions and resentment can occur when conflict goes unresolved. A hostile environment can take place when blaming, being critical or judgmental is the main focus versus conflict resolution. Many times, unresolved conflict is about control rather than the act of treating someone badly. You must ask yourself are you arguing because you feel like you were wronged? Or are you being stubborn and justified because of this perceived wrongdoing?
So, what’s the solution? A great place to start would be to reduce the frequency of conflicts. Did you know that quarreling has been found to give rise to undesirable health conditions?
Since arguing affects our health, learning to communicate assertively will help to develop a longer lasting relationship and decrease the effects arguing has on our health.
The following are some strategies to reduce conflicts with neighbors:
- LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND – Most times when arguments take place we often just want to be heard and validated. Therefore, just as you want to be heard, your neighbor does too.
- PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING – “Fixing” or “Problem solving” may be a good strategy if your neighbor requests for a change. But if they are frustrated about something that cannot be changed, then practice active listening skills. Be a sounding board for the other person and encourage them to talk. Doing so will help them cope through the problem. They will sense that you’re considering their input.
- GIVE TIME AND SPACE – In order to have a productive conversation, you’ll need to check in with yourself. If you’re really triggered, excuse yourself and let the other person know that you’ll need to return to the conversation on another day. Often both parties need a cooling down period. Creating a space and time for this to happen can be beneficial so that effective communication can take place.
- TAKE TIME TO PROCESS – During this time, process what’s bothering you and return when you’re ready to talk. Once you begin sharing your concerns, take turns communicating your experience and perception of the situation.
- ADDRESS THE ISSUE NOT THE PERSON – The issue and the person are not one in the same. Focus on expressing your thoughts and feelings regarding the root of the issue or your need versus the person. Blaming the person can cause for communication to become stagnate and make the person defensive.
- BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE – Sometimes being the bigger person and giving in is really winning. Keeping peace for the greater good can be what is needed to move forward.
- BE SOLUTION MINDED – When discussing the issue, be open to explore solutions together. Offer some suggestions or actions you are willing on taking.
- OFFER A KIND GESTURE – When a neighbor realizes that you are offering a kind gesture, they will sense that you have their back. Perhaps to inform them about a package they have in front of their door, or to offer that you would be willing on checking their mail if they’re away on vacation.
Remember, these are your neighbors. You are bound to run into them frequently. Why would you choose the path of conflict when you can work together to have a peaceful and harmonious neighborly relation.