How To Be A Great Neighbor
Being a neighbor is a hybrid type of relationship - not family, friends or coworkers, it has some elements of all three. You live close enough to have common interests, but you may end up feeling you have little in common. Everyone wants to be on good terms with the people who live around them, and for this you need to put some effort into being a good neighbor.
Basic Good Neighborliness
- Friendliness This one will get you far, costs nothing, and is fairly easy to implement. For introverts like myself, making a point to smile, say hello, nod or otherwise regularly aknowledge neighbors can take some effort, but if you don't do any of these things you will come across as aloof or even superior. If you run into a neighbor someplace like the mall, eye contact and a smile are enough - but without them you may be perceived as rude. One set of neighbors is a great example. They don't speak English (my family's only language unfortunately), but whenever they see us, they smile and raise a hand in greeting. When we moved into the neighborhood seven years ago, the two ladies of the house invited my husband in, served him tea, and carried on a simple conversation with the 20 or so words of English they do know. You can't help but like people like this.
- Respect For Privacy This one is easy for an introvert, maybe harder for the more gregarious. While people are social and crave human contact, protecting their private business is equally important to everyone. Whether you walked by and caught them yelling at the kids, or wonder if Dad's recent presense around the house means he's been laid off, politely acting as if you haven't noticed a thing lets your neighbors save face.
- Take Care Of Your Property In all the neighborhoods I've lived in, East Coast, West Coast and Midwest, this is the one I've seen generate the most bad feeling between neighbors. People who don't get on can avoid one another, but an overgrown lawn is always there staring you in the face.Some people are really into the appearance of their house or condo, and others could care less, but for the sake of goodwill you should put in the effort for basic maintenance. Mow, trim, sweep, or hire a service to do it for you. If it's really something you don't want to invest energy in, a rock garden is always an alternative. My neighborhood has some great ones.
My Kids On Our Front Porch
Beyond the Basics: Neighbors & Life
Invite your neighbors to at least some of your social events Years ago I lived behind a family that every Friday night had a big gathering with a dozen kids running around the yard, a porch packed with adults enjoying a few beers while the BBQ slowly bronzed dinner, and music blasting. One particularly lonely Friday when my husband was away on business and my toddler was asleep in his crib, I looked out my back window to the usual happy chaos, and saw, on top of everything else, a couple making out in the downstairs bathroom. That's when I thought, Why don't they ever invite me to their parties? They didn't know me, so of course there is no real reason they would invite me, but I am only human, and from then on I began to resent the expected Friday night noise.
If you are having a party, especially one that will make noise, telling your neighbors about it and inviting them will hopefully make them more tolerant. My kids are now at the age where their parties include pop music in the back yard, and I feel better knowing that I told neighbors the expected hours of the party, and said I would be having wine and cheese in the front room for adults while the teens & tweens enjoy Lady Gaga & the trampline in the backyard. Only a few have taken me up on it, but I've always enjoyed their company.
Miss Manners, the guru of correct behavior, is great fun to read. She is always polite, somehow manages to be traditional yet completely with the times, and has a solution to every difficulty.
Your neighbors can help you out in times of trouble The unexpected happens, and in a crunch your neighbor is often more likely to help you than your best friend or even your family. A few years ago the woman directly across the street from me was my carpool partner. One morning she didn't look herself, and after I dropped all the kids at school I went back to her door. She didn't answer, but I just had a bad feeling, and went into her house anyway. She was having a seizure. Because she was on anti-seizure medication the symptoms were masked, but she seemed too withdrawn and confused, and I found her husband's work number on the refrigerator and called him. He was home quickly, and took her to the hospital. This is an extreme example, but things like this do happen.
I had back surgery a few years ago, and couldn't drive for a few months. There are no school buses where I live, but a neighbor from down the street ferried my kids to school for the rest of the year. She always said it was not a big thing, but to me it was, and took a big concern off my mind.
Which type of neighbor are you?
You wouldn't do any of these things anyway, but just a reminder.
Lock up guns, even BB or AirSoft I live in what I think of as a nice family neighborhood, but one day my windshield was splintered into fragments by a BB gun, unfortunately owned by a neighborhood elementary school student. His mom was sure he knew better, and so the gun was not locked in a cabinet. Needless to say, it caused some embarrassment.
Don't gossip If you gossip about neighbor X, neighbor Y will probably think you are gossiping about them too. Soon no one will tell you anything, and you won't find out about the block party until you see people setting up.
Don't ask overly personal questions They might just tell you the answer. And after all, we all have to live with one another.
Miss Manners Will Help You Do The Right Thing Every Time:
One Great Way to Build Good Neighborhood Feeling
In closing, one of the best tools for building community spirit is a neighborhood garage sale. To set one up, just pick a date, distribute flyers inviting your neighbors to join in, and put a few ads in local papers. Strolling around and chatting over everyone's outgrown toys, seldom used china and giant gum dispensers, you have a rare opportunity to bond.
For many of us, family lives far away. If we want community where we live, we will have to build it.
Other Neighbor links: Clearly There's Some Feeling Out There
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