Someone asked me if I’m happy to be leaving Karmiel because of some less than pleasant experiences I’ve had with neighbors, and someone else asked if I’m relieved that once I move I will no longer be the building representative.
The short answer is that I’m not running away from anyone; my neighbors are for the most part nice people but at times I was given the opportunity to work on being compassionate without losing my sense of myself.
While I can’t claim my thinking created miracles (though someone else who used to live in my area said my relationship with one of these people is miraculous), I’ve always been pleasant to my neighbors and am leaving on good or at least neutral terms with them all.
Now for an update on being the building representative!
As the volunteer building representative for my apartment building who handles the finances and maintenance for the building, I’ve experienced some challenges in dealing with people who are used to communicating very aggressively.
This week, I hosted a meeting of building residents for which I had a list of things I wanted to go over. In addition to electing a new representative to replace me when I move, I also wanted to give a financial report, establish a set policy for dealing with those who don’t pay, get approval for electric repairs, decide about what to do with the tiles I bought that weren’t used, get agreement to hire someone to find the source of the new leaks, and changing to a different cleaner. Meetings usually take a long time but my goal was to finish the meeting in an hour.
Prior to the meeting, I repeatedly mentally set my intention to have a positive meeting, to be of service and to stay calm and focused. I wanted to be very settled internally because a lot of emotion comes out in these meetings.
I started on time and went right down my list of issues. Sure enough, someone started attacking me, saying I did something against what was agreed on. I took a report from a past meeting out of my file and read it aloud to everyone, noting everyone had agreed to the action that I had consequently taken regarding a given repair, with signatures – including the person who was making claims against me. Two more times in the meeting when I was attacked I pulled out minutes from past meetings to prove that everything I had done was in accordance to what was agreed on by everyone.
There were times when people began to argue and yell. Each time I cut them off, firmly reminding them that right now we’re only discussing things that relate to building business, and only discussing what the issue at hand. I also told them to lower their voices and speak calmly so we could have a productive meeting – and though I had to do this several times throughout the meeting, they were responsive.
I saved the topic of elections for last. I hadn’t yet told anyone that I’m moving, and some people thought it was the actions of someone in the past against me that was causing me to step down. One woman told everyone that there’s never been a time in this building that everything has been taken care of so well, and she’s renominating me. Everyone began to agree, so I had to let them know at this point that I’m not going to be living here much longer and that’s why I need to transfer this position.
There was hesitancy to volunteer so I reminded them that they don’t have to start from scratch like I did. When I took over in Aug. 2013, no one was filling this role for a number of months. There was hardly any money in the account, there were repairs that hadn’t been attended to for years, the electric bill was overdrawn by six months and the building was filthy. No one wanted to take on the job because frankly, it’s a thankless task and in this case, there was so much that hadn’t been dealt with for so long that it was a bit overwhelming.
Now the building is clean and for the most part in good repair (there’s always something new that comes up), there’s a healthy balance in the account, and all the technical aspects of smoothly transferring the position up are in place. Finally three people agreed to jointly take it on.
An hour and three minutes after we began, I officially called the meeting to an end and thanked everyone for their participation. We covered every single item, voted on a new committee and I felt very positively about how it went.
One woman waited for everyone else to leave and said to me, “You’ve transformed how meetings in this building are run. There’s never been so little fighting and so much accomplished, and it’s because of how you manage things people are willing to participate.” I was doubtful that anything I did would have made such a difference but she insisted that in twenty five years meetings have never been as efficient and productive as when I took over. I thanked her for her feedback and told her I hope that whatever positive change there was will continue when I leave.
Often when people ask me about how to deal with their children I say it’s important to find a place of loving strength inside themselves. This is a hard thing to put into words because it’s something you sense rather than see but it’s critical in giving your children the confidence to follow your lead. Finding this place in yourself is true not just in parenting, but in other situations as well.
It’s taken time to get to know the different people here and understand their way of communicating. When I began, I felt my effort to treat others respectfully was construed as weakness. I spoke to a businessman about how to handle the dynamics of the situation and he told me in such a difficult situation as what I was dealing with, it would require bringing in a very aggressive outside person since they would only respect someone like that.
But in the end, I was able to be effective in this situation by finding my place of inner strength and calm, and communicating with the people here from that space.
With all the challenges and frustrations I’ve had while in this position, I’m nonetheless very grateful for the opportunity to internalize certain qualities in myself that I wouldn’t have been forced to develop had I been consistently treated as I would have liked. It’s been a real growth opportunity and what it brought out in me is something I’ll take with me when I move.