Connection with Your Noisy Neighbor
The purpose of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is to create connection. This doesn't mean having heartfelt conversations with everyone you meet. That would take a lot of energy, but what also takes a lot of energy is carrying anger and irritation at someone.
Let's imagine you are carrying some irritation for your neighbor. Your neighbor has a dog that barks with a frequency and volume that definitely does not meet your need for peaceful living. You have talked with your neighbor in an attempt to connect and found that in the space of an hour she spoke for 55 minutes and you spoke for five. You don't have the skills or want to spend the energy to get heard with her.
You can still have some connection with your neighbor and in fact, it would meet your need for peaceful living if you did.
This connection doesn't require her participation. Just yours.
First, there is to watch your judgment show. I am guessing it might sound something like this:
"I can't believe this woman. Doesn't she think of anyone but herself. So selfish! How can she be so inconsiderate. She can't even once ask how it is for us to live above her, yet she complains constantly about our noise. She's crazy! It shouldn't be like this!"
It's important to listen to the story you are telling yourself without judging it or agreeing or disagreeing with it.
Second, give yourself plenty of empathy. It might sound like this:
"I so long for a peaceful home that feels like a sanctuary to me. Not having this, I feel sad, frustrated, and disappointed. I wish for neighbors who are self-aware and considerate of each other's needs."
Just let yourself experience this reality without jumping back into your judgment show. Take your time and feel your longing and the sadness around it. Staying with your longing and grief without going back into judgment is what allows acceptance of the situation as it is.
You may need to do steps one and two many times before you feel that shift into acceptance. At some point you will hear the dog bark and just feel your longing for peace and the sadness without the irritation and anger. This is a sign that you are ready for step three.
Let the image of your neighbor come up in your mind. Try to step into her world in a way that opens your heart to her as another suffering being on the planet. Using our example it might sound something like this:
"I am guessing that talking as much as she does she might be feeling insecure and anxious. If I felt alienated in the midst of talking to her that must happen for other people. I am guessing she has difficulty creating meaningful connection with others and feels lonely and isolated. Maybe she battles this isolation by complaining and fending off the world."
Isn't this analysis? You might be asking. It's analysis if you find your heart closed and your mind busy. These same words could go in either direction depending on what is heart opening for you specifically. If you sit mindfully with the intention to let go of anger and open your heart, and let yourself have a curiosity about what it might be like to live this person's life, you will find your way to compassion for your neighbor and peace for yourself. (At least in that moment).
When you are centered in connection and compassion for yourself and your neighbor, your access to creative problem solving is greatly enhanced. Now you can revisit the barking dog issue with a new perspective and brainstorm possible requests or interventions.
Take a moment and pick someone you carry some irritation for. For the next week, let this person be your cue for mindfulness about your judgment show and empathy for yourself. When you are ready open to what their experience of life might be and make guesses about his or her feelings and needs in the situation about which you are irritated. Lastly, brainstorm new approaches to having both of your needs met in that situation.