by Officer John Thomas
We all occasionally experience disagreements with our neighbors. Minor things such as an overgrown tree hanging over the fence, or a dog that barks all day can lead to conflict. How we deal with these situations can have a huge effect on how successful we are in resolving these conflicts. Having a disagreement does not always have to be a negative thing. Working together to resolve conflicts can lead to better relationships and a better sense of community. By using a few simple conflict resolution techniques, we increase the chances of a positive outcome.
First of all, when a conflict arises, don’t start out by taking your dispute straight to the HOA or Code Enforcement, or the Police. Give the other person the opportunity to address the problem. A good dialogue may reveal there is not really so much of a problem after all. If the first thing a person hears about an issue is in a letter from the HOA or a visit from the police, they will typically become defensive and less willing to work toward a solution to the problem.
Conflicts occur for many reasons. Often the other person may not even realize there is a problem. For example, a person might not realize their dog barks all day. The dog may never bark when the person is home. It is necessary to tactfully inform the person of the problem. If you have not introduced yourself to your neighbor, this might be a good time to do so. Before you talk to your neighbor you must clearly define the problem. It is much easier to find a solution if both parties clearly understand and agree there is a problem. Stick to the facts and avoid attaching your emotions. Try to get an idea of how your neighbor might view things. Looking at the issue from another perspective might change your own perception. Come up with a few possible solutions but be willing to compromise to some degree, rarely does one party get everything they want. Once you have done these things to prepare for the conversation, you should be ready to approach your neighbor to discuss the problem.
When you are ready to talk to your neighbor, choose a time when they are likely to be able to talk for about thirty minutes. Don’t approach them when they are on their way to work or obviously too busy to talk for a while. Avoid approaching the person with a group of other neighbors, as this will likely cause the person to become defensive. It might be best to approach them when their spouse or children are not present to avoid family pressure or too many opinions being expressed at the same time. When speaking to the other party, be respectful. This will make it easier for them to open up to you and consider your point of view. Try to separate the person from the problem as making a conflict personal can create barriers that make it hard to negotiate. Be calm and use a normal speaking voice. Being loud or getting emotional will only hinder good communication. Read next month’s issue for Part 2.
Community Service Officer John Thomas is a Crime Prevention Officer with the Temecula Police Department Crime Prevention Unit. For more information call the Crime Prevention Unit at (951) 506-5132.