From a man in the U.S.: I had a very contentious exchange with a neighbor. My hopes were that we could put things behind us and move past it. He wanted me to “understand” my failings, but he evidently wanted me to figure it out from his scattered evaluations of various actions, words and behaviors of mine.
I tried to address the criticisms individually, but his point in hindsight seemed to be I was missing a pattern. He would say “you’re not listening” and when I told him I was trying to, he said “being quiet while I talk is not listening”. In the end he was doubly angry for the faults and my unwillingness to confront them based on his observations.
What’s troubling is that he is a Corporate Psychologist. During our talk he would dismiss my perspectives by saying that I was not a psychologist as well as not being credentialed in other areas. He went so far to say he had clients similar to me who were in denial. He even had copies of an email I had sent where he had inserted comments judging my intentions and motivations harshly for what I thought were innocuous and benign comments. I told him I would like to think about those comments, but he did not let me keep that paper.
My gut tells me that even if I am incredibly egotistical and self-centered, he was still out of bounds. His wife is a good friend of my wife’s but I’d rather not see him again. Should I give him the benefit of any doubts? I don’t think I am the best at accepting criticism. Often I might move too quickly to justify my behaviors. Was he maybe offering help and I should have been more receptive? Does it matter that he appeared very angry?Most importantly is there anything I might do to try to bridge this gap and at the same time make sure it never happens again?
Your neighbor was way out of line, especially since he is a psychologist. He should know better than to offer insights and critiques that were not asked for. If he wanted to deepen your friendship, he could have offered to share a pattern in your relationship with him that the two of you could work on. But his angry and emotional accusations would never accomplish that goal.
I realize this is complicated because the wives are friends. I hope it’s reasonable for you to take some distance from this man. You can always plead that you are too busy to do things as a foursome and encourage your wife to continue to see her friend. I see no reason for you to subject yourself to more comments from the husband.
I think you did listen, in spite of the tone and manner in which your neighbor talked to you. Your letter indicates you’ve thought about what he said and that you own that you have some personal work to do. In your 60s, you are still interested in growing and improving. Give yourself enormous credit for that.
As for bridging the gap? I don’t know if you can. If your neighbor needs to be “right” and “superior”, he isn’t going to accept that you are working on yourself as best you can. I suppose you could tell him — again — that you do think about his words and that you are working on improving. But do also tell him that you want to be his friend, not his client, and insist that he stop offering advice. Then change the subject to some interest you share. If he won’t stop analyzing you, then do take that step back.
I wish you well,