Friday, 14 December 2012

Being Right or Being Happy?

Yesterday I found myself in a tricky situation.  I was visiting my Dad, and had naturally parked my car on the street in front of his house when I arrived.  

We were chatting away inside when we heard a loud car horn being beeped and someone yelling.  When we went out to see what was going on, his neighbour from directly across the road screamed several profanities out her car window at us, before driving off in a hurry.

It turns out that this neighbour believes no one should be allowed to park across from their house because it means she can't just reverse carelessly out of their drive-way without looking.  Despite this having no legal standing whatsoever, she had verbally abused my family before about this.

Immediately, my Dad went walking over to this neighbour's house to have a word with whoever was home, and I went with him to share my dissastifaction at being yelled at.

The husband was home and had a conversation with us.  He also preferred no one park there, but didn't believe his wife should have yelled about it.  

In actual fact, it's a completely normal parking spot on Australian roads.

When it became clear he would not shift his views, I had to decide: do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?

I could have stood there for another thirty minutes debating the point to try and make him agree it's a perfectly valid parking spot.  However, we had family to meet up with, and this would have caused us to run later than we already were.

I had to stop and think about using DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness skills.

I also had to balance the "wants-to-shoulds" - as in, find a balance between what I wanted and what I should do.

I wanted to argue with this man until he accepted that he and his wife were mistaken in trying to enforce non-existent road rules.  (Which they were!)  But, my wants weren't the only things that mattered, and I knew I should have wrapped up the conversation before it intruded on any more family time.

In the end I was able to achieve my main goals as recommended in DBT:
  • Get my opinions taken seriously: he was definitely listening to us.
  • Get others to do things: he said he would talk to his wife and calm her down.
  • Say no to unwanted requests: I made no commitment to park elsewhere given that this is unreasonable, has no legal standing and is not what I want to do.

And wouldn't you know it - as we were walking away and saying goodbye, he THEN managed to slip in TWO apologies for his wife's behaviour.

That was all we had really wanted all along! 


  1. Way to go, Jess!! Great decision making skills. I'm proud of you, Bunny Bun! ♥

  2. Thanks Turtley-Mel :D Jess from three years ago would have turned it into a screaming match! Glad to be working my way up to more effective and skillful ways of communicating, even if it takes time :) xoxox