Author Topic: The etiquette of tit-for-tat  (Read 5833 times)

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MindsEye

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The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« on: April 13, 2014, 01:02:17 PM »
A friend of mine related the following story to me which started me wondering about this...

My friend has a couple of wind chimes (the deeper, pentatonic ones) on her back deck, and they have been there for years.  Since she moved in, in fact.  She has never heard any comments on them from any of her neighbors.  This winter she got a new next-door neighbor.  Since spring has sprung, she has observed that new neighbor seems determined to feed all of the wildlife in the neighborhood with multiple bird-feeders and feeding stations for squirrels.  My friend has also noticed a large uptick in nuisance deer and raccoon related incidents (garbage torn open, flower beds dug up, deer-damage to her plants, etc) since the feeding started.  Friend has pretty much been gritting her teeth, getting large quantities of chemical deterrents to put around her property to try to minimize the damage, and otherwise dealing with the situation.  Yesterday, the new neighbor rang friend's doorbell and informed friend that she (the neighbor) does not like friend's wind chimes and demanded that friend take them down.  Friend countered that she would consider the request if the neighbor would stop her wildlife feeding because the large numbers of animals being attracted were damaging friend's property.  The neighbor huffed off, claiming that Friend's counter offer was "rude". 

So this gets to my question.  If someone comes to you and says that they find your activity X disturbing, is it rude to say that you will only stop doing X if they stop doing Y? (Y being an activity of theirs that you find disturbing)

Personally I don't think so... I think that if tell someone that something they do or have is annoying to you, that you open the door for them to inform you of things that you do that they don't like either.  I also think that it is a tad bit self-centered to demand that someone accommodate you without offering them anything in return.

What do you all think? 

GreenBird

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2014, 01:17:35 PM »
It does strike me as a little rude to frame it as a tit-for-tat.  While the neighbor complaining certainly provides a natural opening for your friend to also complain, it seems needlessly confrontational to jump straight to "I'll only help you if you'll help me first".  Your friend could have said, "Sorry, I didn't realize the chimes were bothering you, I'll take them down.  By the way, your wildlife feeding is so successful that the animals you're attracting are causing a lot of damage to my yard.  Could you cut down on how much food you're putting out, particularly for the deer/racoons?  They're tearing up my landscaping.  Thanks!"

Deetee

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2014, 01:27:42 PM »
I have a pet peeve (maybe just maybe because my husband does this) about countering a complaint with a complaint.

Example:

Me "Can you please put your coffee cup in the dishwasher before you leave for work?"
Him "Well, why didn't you put tinfoil on the cookie sheet before making cookies?"
Me : (Random thoughts of rage and every annoying thing he has done in the past years)

Honestly, nothing gets sorted out as it just becomes a gripe-a-thon. It is SO DISMISSIVE to merely counter one person's complaint with another complaint.

Now, in your friend's arrangement it is different because they are neighbours and it is exra tough if you communicate with complaints. It makes people feel attacked and dismissed.  BUT, it also makes a lot of sense. So I think it can work if approached in the right way.

Me: "Can you please put your coffee cup in the dishwasher before you leave for work?"
Him " Right, I'm sorry I leave it out in some random place every time I go to work even when the dishwasher is completely empty. I can see how that is annoying, especially as I never, ever clean it up when I get home either. I'll put that away and my cereal bowl as well! Thanks love."
Me "Awwww thanks sweetheart"
Him " But I did want to mention that I would really appreciate it if you put tinfoil on the cookie sheets before using them"
Me "I'm sorry, they do take a long time to clean when things stick to them."
Him: "Let's go out for dinner tonight"
Me "Yeah! that sounds great!"


(but substitute wind chime and feeding animals)

hmmm, maybe I should show my husband the new script.

m2kbug

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2014, 01:40:43 PM »
My first thought -- why didn't she say something to the neighbor about feeding the critters a long time ago?

I think to counter a complaint with another complaint is nonproductive.  The war of the neighbors.  She allowed her own annoyance to fester rather than speaking up, and then had an opening to her own complaint when the neighbor complained about the wind chimes.  Perhaps a better route like the previous posters mentioned would be better - "What is it about the wind chimes your friend doesn't like?  I like them and don't want to remove them.  What if I take one down or get a different kind?  Do you think that would work?  Oh, since you're here, can you please pass on to Neighbor that when she feeds the animals, they come in and destroy my property.  You're really not supposed to be feeding the wildlife anyway.  The raccoons get into the trash.  Can she please not feed so much or stop feeding the deer and raccoons?"   

shhh its me

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2014, 01:49:15 PM »
  I don't think negotiation "tit for tat" is inherently rude but it comes off as petty and really easy to see the worst possible motives. 

It doesn't come off as "Oh I really really like my wind chimes. I gather you really enjoy feeding the animals but they are doing a lot of damage to my property maybe we could both cut back so we disrupt each other less."

jpcher

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2014, 01:54:15 PM »
(snip) Friend has pretty much been gritting her teeth, getting large quantities of chemical deterrents to put around her property to try to minimize the damage, and otherwise dealing with the situation.

(snip)

So this gets to my question.  If someone comes to you and says that they find your activity X disturbing, is it rude to say that you will only stop doing X if they stop doing Y? (Y being an activity of theirs that you find disturbing)

I don't think it's rude at all. Especially since Friend was taking steps to minimize the damage without talking to neighbor . . . in other words Friend was politely dealing with the situation the best that she could without causing neighbor to change her lifestyle.

Neighbor brought it on by asking Friend to change her long-term lifestyle (enjoying the wind chimes) thereby giving Friend a perfect opening to lodge her own complaint.


Deetee posted as I was typing and while I do agree that, perhaps, the approach was a bit ill-timed I don't see that waiting a few days for Friend to go over to the Neighbor's to say "I took down my wind chimes, now will you do this for me?" would be the way to go either.


cicero

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2014, 02:06:30 PM »
negotiating between neighbors/spouses/etc is fine. but what would make more sense would have been if your friend had something to her about the wildlife sooner, instead of waiting for this "opportunity". it makes your friend seem very petty/PA - sort of "I asked my neighbor to reduce the wind chime noise and out of the blue she comes back with 'well, stop feeding the animals and i'll think about it'".


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drzim

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2014, 02:17:56 PM »
(snip) Friend has pretty much been gritting her teeth, getting large quantities of chemical deterrents to put around her property to try to minimize the damage, and otherwise dealing with the situation.

(snip)

So this gets to my question.  If someone comes to you and says that they find your activity X disturbing, is it rude to say that you will only stop doing X if they stop doing Y? (Y being an activity of theirs that you find disturbing)

I don't think it's rude at all. Especially since Friend was taking steps to minimize the damage without talking to neighbor . . . in other words Friend was politely dealing with the situation the best that she could without causing neighbor to change her lifestyle.

Neighbor brought it on by asking Friend to change her long-term lifestyle (enjoying the wind chimes) thereby giving Friend a perfect opening to lodge her own complaint.


Deetee posted as I was typing and while I do agree that, perhaps, the approach was a bit ill-timed I don't see that waiting a few days for Friend to go over to the Neighbor's to say "I took down my wind chimes, now will you do this for me?" would be the way to go either.

I do see how these situations come about.  I've had neighbors who have done things that are annoying, but I tend to let things slide and chalk it up to being in a large city where everyone lives in close quarters. I would never approach a neighbor with a complaint about something like a wind chime.
However, if a neighbor came to me to complain about something like that, I would be thinking "well, I put up with all your _________, if you can't put up with my__________, now I'm no longer obligated to put up with your _______"!  But it does lead to defensiveness and bad neighbor relations.  Because maybe the neighbor doesn't realize they have been annoying you in the first place, and it screams retaliation.

I think waiting a few days and then bringing up the wildlife-feeding issue with the neighbor is the best way to go.  The key is using the opportunity to foster a good relationship with the neighbor.  It makes it much more likely that they will act favorably on your request if you have already favorably acted on theirs.

So, the neighbor comes and asks you to take down the wind chime.  Be reasonable, does it bother them all the time, or maybe just at night?  Maybe you can agree to taking it down sometimes and leaving it up at other times. Come to an agreement.  Be polite and accommodating. 

Then, the following week, you can approach the neighbor and ask about the feeding.  Could they possibly cut back?  You've noticed more animals in your yard doing damage.  Come to an agreement.  Everyone wins, you've established a good relationship which will be beneficial in the future if there other issues.



lkdrymom

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2014, 02:56:25 PM »
I don't see it as tit for tat either. I have been in situations where a neighbor does something you don't particularily like but you put up with it for neighborhood harmony. But then neighbor tells you to stop doing something as it bothers them....I think you have every right to then ask them to correct their behavior too.  Why should one side do all the compromising?  I don;t think waiting a few days to bring up your complaint would work out well...they would assume you are complaining just for spike. I think that since they brought up the subject it would be good to clear the air right then and there.

sweetonsno

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2014, 03:34:46 PM »

So this gets to my question.  If someone comes to you and says that they find your activity X disturbing, is it rude to say that you will only stop doing X if they stop doing Y? (Y being an activity of theirs that you find disturbing)

Personally I don't think so... I think that if tell someone that something they do or have is annoying to you, that you open the door for them to inform you of things that you do that they don't like either.  I also think that it is a tad bit self-centered to demand that someone accommodate you without offering them anything in return.

What do you all think? 

I don't know that it's rude, but I do think it's quite juvenile, especially if their request is phrased politely and you have never brought up your problem with them. I agree with the previous posters who say that part of the problem is timing. It also seems dismissive of their concern and a bit disingenuous (not sure if it's the best word, but it's the best I can think of) in terms of a desire and willingness to accommodate them.

I don't think the request (to take down the wind chimes) is inherently unreasonable, even if they have never bothered anyone else. It doesn't matter if they have never bothered anyone else (thought to be fair, we don't know whether they have bothered anyone, only that nobody has complained).

If the situation had been reversed, and your friend had gone over to ask the neighbor to cut back on feeding the animals and met with the response, "Sure, if you take down those wind chimes," I think it very understandable if she were irked. The response doesn't sound at all like cooperation or concern for your neighbors' well-being and comfort. It sounds like coercion.

I agree with previous posters who say that the best response is to completely separate their request from your own through timing (wait a few days before bringing up your own grievance) or phrasing (like Deetee's script, but without the language reserved for couples).

veronaz

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2014, 03:39:27 PM »
Quote
Personally I don't think so... I think that if tell someone that something they do or have is annoying to you, that you open the door for them to inform you of things that you do that they don't like either.  I also think that it is a tad bit self-centered to demand that someone accommodate you without offering them anything in return.

I disagree with this.

If someone is chewing/cracking gum loudly, and I ask them to stop, then they tell me that it annoys them when I hum a song……

First of all, the issue I’ve presented – at the time - is their loud gum cracking.
I had no idea that my humming was annoying them – it was their responsibility to tell me.
There was no “demand”.  It was a polite request.

Since when is anyone obligated to offer something in exchange for another person stopping annoying behavior?  That's not what etiquette is about.

Case in point:  I have a friend who plays music way too loud in her car.  The last time I got in, the music was really booming.  I said “Can you turn that down a little?”  She did.  But are you saying she should have thought of something I do that annoys her and asked me to change my behavior in exchange for turning down music?  Or that I should have offered her something or accommodated her in some way? ???

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2014, 04:15:50 PM »
I have a large high quality wind chime that can make quite a racket when the wind picks up.  I think the sound is lovely, but I've told every neighbor within earshot to let me know if it bothers them .  In fact, I've told my neighbors that if anything I'm doing bothers them to let me know.  They all told me the same in return. I'd rather have a good relationship with my neighbors than have a wind chime.

I agree with sweetonsno that tit-for-tat is juvenile.  If something's bothering you, speak up.  If someone lets you know you're bothering them, figure out a solution.
It takes two people to play tug of war. If you don't want to play, don't pick up the rope.

Peppergirl

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2014, 04:22:07 PM »
I think your friend came off as petty and PA. 

If she was so bothered by the wildlife the neighbors yard attracts, she should have been a big girl and gone to the neighbor before, not used it as a retaliatory counterpoint when confronted about her chimes.

I might be extra sensitive, though because my ex husband was exactly like this - so take my opinion with a grain of salt.  >:D

veronaz

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2014, 04:27:30 PM »
Quote
I agree with sweetonsno that tit-for-tat is juvenile.  If something's bothering you, speak up.  If someone lets you know you're bothering them, figure out a solution.

POD

One of my siblings is known for not being able to take criticism or complaints of any kind.  If/when someone brings up something he does that's annoying, he comes back at them with several things they've done that have angered him.  It's like he keeps an arsenal or ammo to counter the complaint, and nothing ever gets resolved.  It's juvenile, counterproductive, and one of the main reasons people don't like to be around him.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2014, 05:41:20 PM by veronaz »

Amara

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Re: The etiquette of tit-for-tat
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2014, 04:59:37 PM »
I don't think this was handled well either. But what can be done now?

If it were me (with the wind chimes) I would bake a plate of cookies and go over to see the neighbor saying: "Hi, I'm sorry we started off on the wrong foot the other day. I would love to start over and talk about how we can solve the problems of the wind chimes and the foraging animals. I brought fresh-baked cookies for you, and I hope that perhaps we can have some tea if now is a good time and talk about this. Would you like to to do that?"

If she is amendable, you could find out what bothers her about the wind chimes. If it's more of an "all the time" annoyance, what compromise are you willing to make? Would you be willing to place them inside your home in a location where only you can hear them and turn a fan on them? Are you willing to put them out once a week for an hour? Is there a location where she can't hear them, or times when she is gone?

After you solve that problem, ask if she is willing to talk about her feedings. Explain why you'd like her to stop and why it is dangerous not just for people and pets living there now but for the animals themselves (who get used to being fed and may starve when suddenly cut off at some point in the future). See if you can get her to stop.

But keep the two issues separate. Do not go in with a tit-for-tat attitude because I think you are going to be better off, and achieve far better results, if you approach it as a "what can I do for our neighborly relations" problem.