An encounter with my neighbor, By Hagit Lifshitz, Israel

 

For more that two years we had been complete enemies. An argument about how to allocate our parking lots, a few days after settling in our new building, became a big quarrel with our neighbor. Harsh words have been said, words we use when we tragically try to express our unmet needs…

Weeks of training with NVC had not helped me deal with this situation effectively. I had been busy trying to realize if this process could really work in “real life” at all… Luckily, Marshal Rosenberg had been there quite intensively, training the Israel police staff and I was there with him trying to absorb as much as I could, so I had the opportunity to stay connected with the energy of being aware and willing to trust the process.

One day, as I was going up the stairs, I saw our neighbor going down the stairs. As it had happened many time before, he spit out a curse. As it had not happened before, I, surprisingly, did something new. I stopped, looked at him and said: “Are you feeling unhappy being our neighbor, because you’d liked us to behave towards you in a different way?” My intention and focus were on his feelings and needs. I suddenly could phrase a sentence that expressed that energy truly and frankly.

He stopped too, turned to me, looked at me with a surprised expression and said: “Yes! I am very unhappy! It’s been a disaster having you our neighbors!”. Then I said: “So, You know what, maybe it’s the right time for us to make the time and space to talk about it?” He looked at me as if he was trying to realize if I was using a new kind of manipulation on him… After a while he said: “You know what? OK, let’s talk!” He sounded to me like he was challenging me… I said: “OK, let’s talk. You decide when and where, OK?” and he responded immediately: “in my home, this evening, after I put my kids to sleep, will you come!?” I said: “Yes!”.

At 8 pm sharp I knocked on their door. His wife was out for her jogging. He welcomed me with coffee and cookies, sat down and started to tell me his complaints and criticism about us. For about 30 minutes I just listened, focusing my awareness on his feelings and needs, without saying one word. Then, when he paused, I said to him: “Before I respond, I wish to tell you first what I hear you say. Is that OK with you?” He said yes. Then I reflected back his feelings of rage, frustration, disappointment, discomfort and discontent, and his needs for good relationships with his neighbors, a certain level of quality of life and well being in his new home, friendship with others and contribution to life. He felt surprised, moved and encouraged by my reflection and said: “I wish you knew how generous I am with my friends! I wish you realized what a good neighbor I can be!” and I said: “So you want me to know and acknowledge your generosity and willing to give from your heart?” That conversation was like a miracle to both of us. I realized it could work in real life, not only in workshops…

Then his wife came in. She saw me and made a step backwards. She looked worried see me in her living room… He said to her: “Come in, come in sit with us” and then he turned to me and said: “Would you be willing to talk to my wife the way you talked to me?”

And all the rest is history.