This week, I had one of those realizations that shock a person to the core. I was reminded that old programming and patterns of behavior really do die hard. They can resurface – unbidden – when you least expect it. For me, this has been one of those weeks.
An incident not too trivial to mention
It started with a missive from our new neighbor telling my lovely partner what, in their opinion, he had no right to do outside our own front door.
This is one of those stories that should be too trivial even to mention. However, it seems that my neighbour doesn’t do trivial. One or both of them do high drama and – I would say – a fair degree of entitlement.
The whole point of the story is that it provoked, in me, a very old pattern of response that I had not fully resolved. But in order for you to understand how I woke up to this toxic old pattern and how my realisation might benefit you, too, I will need to tell you a little of the story.
A disruption to sleepy village life
By now, I hope that you might be faintly curious about what could possibly disrupt life in a sleepy village outside tranquil Oxford.
In case you’re wondering whether I had decided to do something deeply antisocial outside our front door – like, say, nude sunbathing (clinically insane in the autumnal UK weather), staging an impromptu cattle market or just holding a barbecue for 500 of my best friends – I am sorry to disappoint you. I did no such thing. Our heinous crime was that they did not like where my partner had parked his car (a designated parking place, no less!!).
Neither the previous occupants of their house nor any other neighbor had ever objected because there are no real grounds for objection. (In fact, the whole incident took me back to a similarly pointless incident a few years back.
The tone of the missive was unfriendly and more than a little entitled.
We decided that the best response was probably no response.
The veiled threat
A few days later, my neighbors, by now operating as a couple, sent a joint, typewritten missive making three unjustifiable claims about the heinousness of my partner’s behaviour.
For the record my partner is just about the nicest, most considerate person on the planet. His health has not been great over the last year and this second letter troubled him. There was a veiled threat, seemingly, about taking legal action.
At that point, I decided I had better muscle in and take the problem off my partner’s hand. He didn’t need the stress.
So, I read the neighbors’ letter, pointed out that I expected them to leave my partner out of this and proceeded to rebut all the silly arguments that they had made.
The whole thing felt remarkably like bullying – because, I rather suspect, it is. I duly went into stand up to the bully mode.
I carefully weighed up every word of my counter-arguments. If spending most of my life under attack had taught me anything it had taught me how to attempt to justify myself.
My light-bulb moment
It was only when I got to the end of my letter and felt that I could relax and breathe that the following line rolled out of its own accord. It read,
“There are two sets of needs that need to be taken into account here.”
As I looked at it on the page, the light-bulb came on.
What the hell had I even been doing rebutting their pointless claims? The bottom line is that there are two sets of needs here and in every situation.
My conclusion was that I’ll be damned if I won’t insist on mine being included – right from the beginning – in whatever discussion there is.
What living around bullies teaches
Having lived most of my life around abusers and bullies, I had always automatically assumed that there was only one set of needs that counted. That set wasn’t mine.
My role was always to see if I could wheedle some concession out of the person with all the needs – and rights. Usually, I couldn’t. So, I just settled for a worst case outcome.
My realization over The Great British Neighbor Dispute was that I’m just not playing that game anymore.
There are always two sets of needs
There are always two sets of needs.
One way or another, yours have to be factored into the equation. By you, in the first instance.
As a child, of course, you don’t have a great deal of say in such scenarios. You might as well put up and shut up right from the start. At least doing that will limit the amount of punishment you incur.
However, as an adult, you certainly do have a say.
When you start from the position that you have a legitimate set of needs that must be taken into consideration, that can only change the discourse and the outcome.
Not that that means you will ever arrive at a good compromise with an abusive narcissist. That just doesn’t happen.
Narcissists rarely back down. Or if they do, it is only a short-term measure. They will return to the charge when you least expect it and are at your most defenceless.
You can’t change a Narcissist.
Understanding that your needs are real changes you
However, when you start understanding that your needs are as real and important as theirs, it changes you.
That realization starts to build your core strength and guides you to make better choices for yourself sooner than you otherwise might.
There are always two sets of needs to be considered. If yours can’t be taken into consideration, then you don’t have a relationship. Equally, if the other person’s needs are unacceptable, then… you still don’t have a relationship.
In that case, it’s a lot more helpful to realize that you don’t have a relationship than to keep plugging away trying to give the kiss of life to a defunct relationship.
As regards The Great British Neighbor Dispute, it rumbles on. The third missive came from The Other Side, still laying down what we can and can’t do outside our own front door – but with a different set of justifications. Once again, it stated that they want to resolve this amicably.
On resolving things amicably
I replied, referencing a dear, wise friend who was a genius at conflict resolution. I could hear his voice in my ear, saying,
“If someone wants to resolve something amicably, they would be advised to open the conversation in a friendly way.”
So, I have sent a rather nice greetings card suggesting just that. Why don’t we restart the conversation in a friendly way and see how we can play nicely together? (Okay, I didn’t actually use the words “play nicely together”. But I definitely did suggest that we rewind and start over in an amiable way.)
Hectoring is a very poor way for anyone to arrive at a mutually agreeable result.
Ideally, someone needs to reset the tone – if the tone can be reset.
We shall see where this all goes. Although I can’t say for sure, I don’t hold the highest hopes of my neighbors’ negotiating skills. But here’s what I do know,
There are two sets of needs that need to be considered here.
End of story.
Don’t you ever let anyone rob you of the consideration due to your needs – and please don’t do what I nearly did and rob yourself.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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