Peace with People: Case Study

Several of my findings helped me in addressing a particular event that was ongoing and continually frustrating. A neighbor in my apartment building would get up very early—both on weekdays and weekends—and leave home before many residents were awake (5:00 a.m. or so). He would rev his car engine several times very strongly, tear down the alleyway, and honk his horn at the end of it several times (presumably to let passersby know he was coming). It’s hard enough to find time to sleep, and this disturbance would wake me up about an hour earlier than I had to be up every morning. What was worse than the shortened sleep time was the terribly angry state I’d find myself waking up in each day.

So my initial reaction (after a week or so of this and realizing that even with winter coming and my windows closed, his routine in the morning would continue to wake me up) was to write a note and place it on his car. I first wrote a note directly after waking one morning—in full anger mode—and luckily he was still gone when I went out later in the day to place it on his car. This gave me a chance to put time and perspective between the event and my reaction, and, based on my findings from this experiment, give the guy the benefit of the doubt. So I rewrote the note, simply informing the driver that his actions were waking me up and would it be possible for him to be a little quieter in the morning. I concluded with a big “Thank you!”

To my somewhat jaded surprise—and really heartened return to confidence in the general kindness of the human race!—he has been extremely quiet ever since. I haven’t woken up once due to his actions since I left that note. I believe this positive reaction to the note can be attributed to the fact that I gave the driver the benefit of the doubt. I came at it from the perspective of, maybe he just doesn’t realize that his actions are having this negative effect on his neighbors. Calling it to his attention in a respectful way stopped the circle of ill will that a nastier note would have continued.