There’s a couple in my building that annoy me. They are on the other side of every meeting, vote, and discussion. Their view is “if it does not directly affect me, I am against it.” They don’t swim, so they are against maintaining the pool area.
When I see them in the lobby, I smile and talk about the weather or some other topic that doesn’t touch on the vote. They are a smart couple and can be funny and friendly. I may not agree with them, but that does not give me the right to be derisive, mean, or snarky.
My mom and I may have had a lot of differences, but I will always be grateful that she taught me to be unfailingly polite. Being polite eases rides on the elevator, meeting someone you don’t like in the laundry room, and making it through the day without raising your blood pressure.
We don’t agree, but neither do I have to confront them. Much of the work of getting votes in our condo discussions is in hearing the opinion of others and talking from the spot where you both agree. Yes, that spot may be small and difficult to find, but a “you are wrong about this,” is never going to change one neuron of anyone else’s opinion.
Once I take my ego (need for control, need to be right, or need to win) out of the discussion, I can concentrate on the issue and the results of choosing an opinion without being dramatic or making someone else wrong. If we discuss issues as if they were a box sitting on a table, a box we can both look at and think about, the personal gain of negotiating a peaceful path is much easier.
No, it’s not easy. I’m absolutely certain this couple is wrong. No one has asked for my opinion, however. If we want to reach an agreement, the top priority is remaining civil, polite, and finding topics to discuss that don’t crumble into disagreement. It sounds old-fashioned, but damn, it works. Polite conversation is still conversation. Not making someone else feel “less than” is still a better thing than running them down when I talk to others.
You are not giving up your opinions when you are being polite. You are making the world a tiny bit easier. That alone, is worth it.
—Quinn McDonald is looking for ways to be kind and make the world, or at least the tiny piece she lives in, kinder.