When Miha and I arrived back in Bad Belzig from Berlin it was quite late already. We had rented a small private apartment just outside the ZEGG premises. (The ZEGG is a community where we did parts of our own NVC training.) In Berlin we had been to the IAMX concert and we were in a good mood. So we were not really prepared for the scare that was about to happen.
When we opened the gate to the yard a figure approached us from the dark. Our landlord was asking in a volume louder than I would appreciate, what we were thinking moving the single beds and putting them together? It was past one a clock and must have been way past bed time for the man, who was in his mid eighties. He must have spent the last few hours in his kitchen awaiting our return.
The furniture had been expensive, he said, and very heavy and the beds would break if you just moved them around without experience! We were startled because we had not been prepared for that kind of encounter at that houer. And we were angry that he had obviously entered the apartment without notice. But Miha managed to keep her countenance and ended our encounter saying, she didn’t want to have that kind of a talk at that time of the day. Tomorrow would be a better time.
I went back to him the next morning. What I had done before was taking a moment (under the shower actually…) to put myself in the old man’s shoes and empathize with his situation.
We sat down in his kitchen and I found the mood a lot less tense than yesterday. I opened the conversation by making an empathic assumption about his needs, starting with what had come to me (under the shower.) Had he felt angry because wanted to be asked before we changed anything in the house? – Of course he did! And was he worried that the beds might break because he wanted his house to be in order and well maintained? – Of course, of course! And at his age he wouldn’t be able to move the beds back to their original position all by himself, he said!
After I had asked him about what he felt and needed he quickly started opening up by himself. After all he wasn’t the youngest anymore, he said. He had used to build and repair and carry everything by himself, but now he simply wasn’t strong enough. Also his wife had helped with everything, but she passed away a few years ago and now he was the only one in charge.
When I had put myself in his shoes before our talk I had come across a feeling of helplessness for having to realize that while getting older you are also losing your powers: a need for self-reliance and managing on your own that is ever harder to meet.
Only after I had listened to him and empathized with his needs I went on to talk about what we were about. That we had been startled by his approaching us out of the dark last night and that we would have liked to be notified in case he needed to enter our apartment in our absence. I was under the impression that it was easy for him to listen and understand, because he had been listened to before and had been understood.
So we said goodbye. I promised that we would carefully restore the beds to their original state before leaving on Sunday. He said he would get a do-not-disturb-sign for the door. And he recommended for us to book the other apartment next time.
The room next door has a double-bed.