|Photo by Brett Jordan|
It's not often a neighbor hurts my feelings.
But this summer when I went door to door distributing flyers on behalf of the neighborhood association, I was caught off guard by an angry resident; and to this day, I wonder if the situation could have been handled better.
I volunteer as secretary on the neighborhood association board. We have an outstanding team composed of five people who donate their time to represent our neighborhood.
This summer, we began the annual membership drive. Dues are not outrageous and yet out of the 400 households, only 100 of them join. The board decided that if we passed out flyers, more people might be interested. We felt that if we went door to door, we could inform neighbors about the benefits of joining the association plus remind them about our Facebook page. On Facebook, members can post news that concerns our neighborhood, sell items, alert others about missing pets, or even offer veggies grown in their gardens.
I got up early one Saturday morning in June to walk up and down my street and the adjoining streets to pass out about the flyers. The day was hot, overcast, and misty. My tee shirt clung to my skin and my hair got damp and frizzy (those who know me would tell you that I'm not fond of muggy weather.)
I gathered a red marker, masking tape, and the fliers. I wasn't feeling great. My hip was sore (later I found out it was due to sciatica). I felt every step. Still, this was my assignment and I tried not to think too much about the pain.
For about an hour and a half, I taped flyers to the brickwork or to the windows that flanked the front doors, mindful to avoid delicate surfaces. I personalized some flyers and gave those to the neighbors I knew well. All was going smoothly and I was heading back down our street when a man yelled, "HEY, DON'T YOU EVER TAPE ANYTHING TO MY HOUSE AGAIN."
I was taken aback. I responded, "These flyers are about the neighborhood association and I was careful not to use tape that would harm your house."
And then, Mr. Grumpy Neighbor lashed out again. I could see this was a losing argument. He was pissed off. There was nothing that could have been said to calm him down. I walked away quickly and finished my task all the time feeling bruised by his words.
When I look back on this unfortunate event, I wonder why he couldn't have said something nicer like, "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tape anything to my house." It's all in how we choose our words that can make the difference in how are feelings are expressed and how language is interpreted by others.
It still makes me sad every time I walk by the angry man's house. The ugly words seem to hang in the air. Then I wonder if I should have handled it differently, been more assertive, gotten in his face and stood my ground.
But my gut tells me I acted properly. Mr. Grumpy Neighbor didn't deserve my time. I have more dignity than getting into a heated discussion, especially with someone who probably didn't care what I had to say. Though he hurt my feelings, I repeated my mantra: Don't engage. Don't engage. And this always serves me well. Especially when someone uses nothing but angry words.
À la prochaine!