I once read a book called ‘Difficult Conversations‘ by Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher.
The most common trend in the book was the seemingly trivial nature of the issues that led to serious problems and I never understood why this was the case. Until a few months back, that is..
I share a wall at Prince George’s Park Residences with a Pakistani classmate and friend. While we knew each other thanks to sharing a few common modules before, being neighbors meant we saw a lot more of each other. All went well until my stereo system started bothering him. I have a set of Altec Lansing speakers, with a woofer (which provides the bass sounds – thudding, vibrations etc for the not-so-musically inclined) and often, these seep through the rather thin walls.
He mentioned it a few times and I tried turning it down (to no avail, as he could never hear the music, but could feel the vibrations and the woofer bass could not be turned down in my speaker model). Trying to turn it down didn’t help me either as I could barely hear the music now and yet, it never solved the problem anyway. It was only a matter of time before the situation became untenable for the both of us. He found it increasingly hard to keep bothering me as we had shared a positive relationship while I hated the fact that I was being such a troublesome neighbor.
We tried many solutions like having ‘loud music hour’s‘ wherein I was allowed to play music as I pleased between 7-9pm in the evening. However, even this came crashing down after a while like all the other ideas.
As time passed, the situation became virtually hellish for the both of us. Additionally, let me also illustrate two unsaid factors in this situation.
– Thanks to my (late) father, who was a wonderful singer and a BIG music fan, the first thing that I shop for, when getting ready for life in a new place, is a stereo speaker set and a day without music for me would be a very long and frustrating one.
– The India-Pakistan rivalry is a deeply ingrained rivalry. It would be comparable to the Israel-Palestine rivalry in the International scene. While we have overcome our scripting thanks to 4 years in NUS, we could begin to question this decision and go back to our old paradigm in tough times.
Given this delicate scenario, I am also happy to inform you that we have resolved the issue – albeit with a few compromises.
However, I will leave the story of the resolution for later; after hearing your thoughts on the vital question –
What would you have done in such a situation?