Do you like church bells? Our street doesn’t. In fact, in the last half a year or so, most neighbours (including us) began to hate it. Our village church is a big proud heavy building and so are the church bells. Since we live in a valley beneath, the sound doubles or even triples. Moreover, since our Christian community lives a colourful and active life, they celebrate every special occasion with ecclesial music. In our view every 15 minutes, relatively.
The neighbours as usual and everywhere in the world talk a lot. Complain a lot. In addition, as soon as they find enough think-alike partners, the party begins. Especially, according to Slovenian stereotype, this is a rather typical Slovenian situation.
We wanted to do something about it. My husband started online conversation with our priest and the priest invited our whole community for a meeting that took place on Tuesday. I went along not because the bells would bother me (in fact I don’t care much about things like that), but more because I wanted to be there in case the group would fall too deep into conflict and argument and would need mediation. Also, I wanted to be a support for my husband in case he would get stuck with words.
The meeting started. There were about 25 people – about 7 bell ringers, the priest and the rest of us, angry neighbours. The priest invited my husband to start. My husband, ladies and gentlemen, is a natural talent when it comes to nonviolent communication. He’s also a master of natural solution-focused orientation. I had to go through a long training and hours of learning, but he manages it as a piece of cake. What he’s not so good at, is managing group dynamics in terms of deciding when enough is enough and how to break with a topic that’s leading nowhere and bring it to a topic that does. Since I was aware of this, it was rather easy for me to know what to do. If I knew the group dynamics, which I did not …
Things got heated up as the neighbours took over complaints and everybody wanted to state how much they are bothered, when and what the situation was as well as how bad it is. The priest and his team eventually started losing patience. As soon as this happens, there’s only one tiny step towards defence. From there, there is little chance of reaching consensus.
As it turns out, the priest and my husband (with my minor interventions as leading from behind) managed to start a discussion about the solutions. As a result, we will get some special window shutters by August 15th. How was it possible this happened and the whole group felt satisfied with the agreement? Because the leaders (the priest and my husband) agreed upon the following statements:
- We want to communicate
- We want to make a common improvement
- We don’t take things personally
- We understand the needs of the other
- We understand our own needs.
I only wished I could take a picture of before/after situation. A picture with red faces in the complaint phase and smiles in the conclusion phase.
As the meeting closed and we started to say goodbye, our close neighbour introduced me to the priest, saying I do some activities the priest might find interesting and valuable. This resulted in an offered space for our workshops and meetings! So dear reader, in the next newsletter if you are subscribed, you’ll find information about a new location!