Break from News for a True Persuasion Story

Break from News for a True Persuasion Story

I manage my exposure to news, aiming to strike a balance between staying sufficiently informed while also staying sane. I’m ready for a break from blogging about the news, and I bet you readers are ready for a break, too. So let me tell you a true story about how I recently used the skills I teach.

Since a new neighbor moved in downstairs, I’ve been hearing her TV and music in my apartment. It’s not loud enough to blast me off my chair. I don’t hear it in the bedroom. So I could to Live with it.

But as I teach my trainees and clients, our persuasion and consensus-building skills aren’t just for resolving disagreements. We can use them to make an okay situation better.

So I applied my own system to my neighbor noise issue.

I noted my interests. Then, I asked myself why I wanted each of these things to see if I could broaden the definition of my interests.

Here’s my interest list:

Reduce noise – Why?

  • Relaxing atmosphere in my home.
  • Better concentration when working.
  • Help prepare for sleep at night.

Get along with neighbor. Why?

  • Neighbors can make my life better or worse.
  • I feel better—physically, mentally and emotionally—when I get along well with people.

Safety and security. Why?

  • Neighbors who know my apartment number and/or phone number can cause me serious problems.

Next, I made a little reconnaissance run to the outside of the neighbor’s apartment. The decorations outside the door suggested a single woman, or perhaps a couple. This eased my safety concerns.

I tried to imagine what interests the neighbor might have. Here’s my list for her:

Enjoy TV and music.

Get along with her neighbors.

Avoid unpleasantness with management.

Feel right. [See my “Silver Rule of Persuasion”: avoid or minimize making the other person wrong.]

My “Walkaway Alternatives” are things I can do on my own, without any cooperation from the neighbor, to address my interests. I will try to satisfy them by agreement with the neighbor better than I could satisfy them with my best Walkaway Alternatives:

Live with status quo.

Keep my own music on to mask hers.

Ear plugs or muff.

Ask management to intervene.

I tried to imagine the neighbor’s Walkaway Alternatives. To persuade her to address my interests, I try to satisfy her interests better than she could with her best Walkaway Alternatives, but in ways that are consistent with my own interests:

Change nothing.

If management tells her to turn volume down,

  • Do it temporarily, then turn back up, or
  • Invite manager to come into her apartment and hear for herself that it’s not all that loud.
  • Play dirty tricks on Margaret.

Considering her probable interests in getting along with neighbors and avoiding unpleasantness with management, I believed it would be worth a try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

I decided to prioritize not making her wrong by going to management, at least for now. I did not think this would become a true safety issue. So I decided to begin by approaching her myself.

My best chance of persuading her to turn down the volume was to address her interests in ways consistent with my own interests.

Ordinarily, I choose in-person communication over writing when discussing awkward or potentially disturbing matters. However, my best judgment was that I could be more eloquent in writing. Also, if I left a note outside her apartment, I could put a little gift with it—a small bag of Godiva chocolates.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Neighbor,

Welcome to our apartment community. I hope you are settling in and that you like living here.

If you are new to Houston, or just new to this neighborhood, and ever want ideas or directions for where to find things, please feel to phone me at __(phone #)___.

Meanwhile, I have a small favor to ask you. That would be if you could turn the TV and music volume down a little lower? I would be so grateful if you could.

Thanks in advance, and again, welcome.

Yours truly,

Margaret

(Upstairs)

As a learning exercise, compare this note with the lists of my and my neighbor’s interests above. Notice how the wording of the letter addresses various interests.

The neighbor phoned me the very next day, and she couldn’t have been nicer. She is a little hard of hearing, but would turn the volume down some. She gave me her phone number and asked me to call if I ever heard the TV or music again.

We got to chatting about what I do, and she said, “You practice what you preach. Your note was so diplomatic.”

I hope this story helps you see how you can apply these skills in real life. If you would like to see more detailed negotiation or consensus-seeking preparation notes, check the numerous examples in the main text of Bridges to Consensus and in Appendix A.

And, of course, if you have questions, please contact me.

2 comments

  1. Dan Benson

    Margaret,

    I used to manage an apartment complex. Would that everyone would address minor conflicts like this by themselves without getting the manager involved. As soon as the manager gets involved there is an escalation of emotions. There is a feeling of “Why couldn’t he/she have come directly to me?

    In addition, it put me in an awkward position because I really had no idea if the person’s music and TV was too loud or if the complainant was just being picky. So by coming to me to solve their problem not only was the complainant made to appear sort of weak and whiny for not going directly to the person that was creating the noise, there was automatic resentment that I got involved. Finally, there was little I could really do other than make the “noisy” person aware there were some concerns.

    Your solution is ideal, and of course, the principles you based your actions on are very well thought out. Finally, the proof is in the result. That says it all.

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