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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a fresh perspective on why we disagree and how to resolve it.
I live in a small planned unit development with four families. This is the second year we have lived in the community, as it is a new development. The control box for the sprinkler system is in my backyard. The park-strip grass we all share is watered by a valve in that control box. Every summer, I consult the water conservation website for irrigation frequency, and follow that guideline. This means that the grass is not lush and green, but rather, closer to yellow in color.
My retired neighbor is extremely unhappy about this and badgers me relentlessly to increase the watering for that area. He has become hostile and abusive. When I called a meeting with the other families to discuss what to do, he went into victim mode, saying that he is the only one trying to save the grass and maintain the appearance of the grounds. He does do a lot of work around the planned unit development, such as repairing sprinklers, fertilizing, etc. He is home and able to do it, and is compensated by the HOA.
How can we find a happy medium? Is it even possible?
Most disagreements like this happen because of differences in values. It has been my observation, as a life coach and human behavior expert for 15 years, that there are four value systems that drive most human behavior. When you understand what someone values most, you will then understand their thinking, behavior, and why they make the choices they do.
We all value all four of these, but we usually have one that is more dominant than the others. Understanding this is the trick to resolving conflicts and disagreements.
Here are the four value systems that create most disagreements:
1. Some of us value people most.
These people don’t like to be alone and highly value relationships, connection and feeling wanted and included. They would sacrifice getting things done for time to visit with friends, and they care more about people than things, tasks or opinions. 2. Some of us value tasks most.
These people are driven by their “to-do” lists and are constant workers and doers. They care most about getting things done and would rather work alone and be productive than visit with others. 3. Some of us value things most.
These people care about how things look, taking care of things and creating things. They can be artists, inventors or good stewards, who carefully manage what they have or are in charge of. 4. Some of us value ideas most.
These people care about causes, opinions, rules, politics and the environment most. They are rule keepers and system followers. They are often advocates, teachers and well-educated. They also believe in fairness, loyalty and are community minded. It sounds like you are someone who values ideas and principles most. This is why you follow recommended guidelines and believe in doing what is right for the community, city and state, not just for yourself. You highly value doing the right thing, even if it means sacrificing some of your quality of life.
Your neighbor appears to value things. He spends a great deal of time making his yard look good. Having a nice yard feels important to him because it creates his quality of life and he hopes others will benefit from it too. I am sure he cares about the community and environment, but it sounds like he cares about things looking nice a little more. He also values hard work and wants to see the fruits of his labor.
The most important thing you need to know in this situation is there is no right or wrong— there is just different. Your value system isn’t better than his, and you both have the right to be who you are and see the world the way you see it. You both have the right to have your value system honored and respected, and you have the same intrinsic value as every other human being. Neither of you can resolve this problem if you continue to see yourself as right or better and the other as wrong.
Whenever you find yourself in a disagreement, the solution lies in having a mutually validating conversation with the other person, a conversation where both people feel respected and honored. There are five steps to doing these conversations right, and if you follow them, you can usually create a compromise.
Steps for a mutually validating conversation:
1. Make sure you see the other person as having the same intrinsic worth as you. Make sure you aren't talking down from a position of better, smarter or more right.
2. Set all your opinions aside up front. Don’t start the conversation expressing your view. Start the conversation ready to listen to them.
3. Ask questions about what they think, how they feel, what their concerns and opinions are. Actively listen and validate, honor and respect their right to see the world the way they see it. This comes from how they are wired, and they cannot see anything else at this time. Make sure at this step you are not agreeing or disagreeing (those are about you). This is the time to make them feel heard and understood. The longer you spend here the better. This kind of listening helps to lessen defensiveness and create a safe space for you to share your views too.
4. Ask permission to share your views. Ask your neighbor if he would be willing to let you explain why you think it’s important to follow recommended guidelines and do what you feel is right for the whole community. Ask if he would be willing to be open-minded and at least consider your view. If he is, then go to step five. If he isn’t willing to hear you, say you respect that and thank him for his time. (You must do this if you want to build trust where further conversations could go better.)
5. Speak your mind using “I” statements, not “you” statements. Tell him about your values and why you see the situation the way you do. Ask him if he would be open to a compromise and suggest something that honors both your values. Maybe you could water more, but do it at night or water a little longer, while still conserving, to some degree.
The trick lies in being willing to let go of the “I’m right and you are wrong” mindset, and being truly open to seeing the right in the other person's perspective.
Remember, they aren’t wrong, they are just different. The world would be a boring place if were all the same, and we need social connectors, get-it-done workers, artists, stewards, advocates and rule keepers to make the world work. There is a place for everyone.
Make sure you validate your neighbor's strengths and talents, and appreciate the work he does on the property. He will really appreciate some praise and validation. If you start the conversation with that, you can resolve most problems.
You can do this.
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