Tips for how to stop a nosy neighbor from gawking and causing trouble.
Stopping nosy people, be they neighbors or family members is often aggravating. Nosy people violate your boundaries and intrude into your life. Although stopping the nosy neighbors is ideal, in these days of hyper-vigilance, keeping them totally out of your life and business may create more problems for yourself. Dealing with nosey neighbors is now a two-edged sword.
Setting up boundaries is a good place to start. These can be in the form of fences, barriers or other obstacles that break the line of sight. The poet Robert Frost, in his poem, “Mending Wall”, ended with the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors”. Robert Frost understood the importance of good fences. Fences not only make a barrier, it establishes and defines your territory. It sends the message that you are separate and distinct from them. Besides a physical barrier, you may need other types as well. This includes firewalls on your wireless router and emotionally separating yourself from them. You will need to set up the barrier and then abide by it. You will need to respect their boundaries if you expect them to respect yours. That means that you will need to be careful not to encroach on your neighbors as well.
Establishing emotional boundaries can bring security to you, yet create bad relations with the neighbors. If you emotionally isolate them by ignoring them or reacting with passive aggressive gestures, they may have a strong reaction. Neighbors have been known to call in anonymous tips to Children’s Protective Services or other agencies as payback for such actions.
If your boundaries are too tight, there are often consequences. You may want to consider ways of establishing a balance between a tolerable working relationship and protection of your privacy. When the relationship becomes too hostile or aggressive on either side, it can become a living hell.
Nosey people often consider you and your activities ‘fair game’ and part of their life. Although fences are often a good start, if your neighbor is mentally unstable, those obstacles often irritate the nosey person. Those walls can work against you if you violate the boundaries yourself. This may include playing your music louder than they would like, having a large number of visitors to your home, smoking things that they do not approve of in your backyard or having a party that lasts longer than they like. If you have neighbors that are easily irritated, they may react to such encroachments with hostility. The police may be called at the slightest provocation when your boundaries are too tight.
There may still be times when the neighbor catches you outside in public. In dealing with these situations, you will need to know how to set boundaries in a respectful manner. If you have trouble telling people ‘no’ or limiting the amount of information you reveal, this could be a challenge for you. Try to keep the conversations short, but respectable. If you have to reveal information, keep it routine and boring. Conversation topics such as leaky toilets, ways to improve leftovers and how to keep your grass green are often boring and safe enough for discussion. By sharing such mundane topics, the neighbor knows what is going on without being overly intrusive. In these days of neighborhood watches and ‘know your neighbor’, being too private often raises red flags. Giving them a few safe items may satisfy their nosey curiosity while maintaining the bulk of your privacy. It may take some practice to learn how to talk without saying anything. Once you master it, you will appear neighborly without violating your privacy or theirs. The key thing to remember is if you want privacy, you will need to respect theirs as well.
You will also need to avoid doing anything in your backyard to attract attention. If you like to talk loud, frequently have friends over, drink liberally or smoke questionable substances, you are asking for trouble. Although it is not always fun, avoiding the appearance of evil and avoiding the appearance of asking to be snooped on goes a long way. Engaging in unusual behavior is often a red flag that draws attention to yourself. Look at how the neighbors do things. If you want to not draw attention to yourself, then camouflage your activities to look like theirs. If they all pull into their garage rather than backing in, do what they do. If they all decorate for the holidays, you may want to decorate as well. When you do not ‘fit’ in with others in the neighborhood, they will want to find out ‘why’. Blending is a good way to reduce visibility.
Keep in mind that there are neighbors who are nosey in public and some that are nosey on the internet. It is not beyond neighbors to ‘google’ you and your activities in order to know what is going on. Their interest may be due to boredom, the desire to connect or a host of other whims. With tools like google earth, they can easily see what is on the other side of the fence. If they are technical geeks, they may be eavesdropping in ways you never imagined. Their curiosity can turn into stalking, which creates a nightmare. With the sensitive microphones now available, they may hear more of your conversations than you imagined.
Nosey family members are tougher in that since they are family, you can not easily cut them off totally. They may use the telephone or mail service to launch attacks. You will need to give yourself permission to not answer their calls or even open their mail. They may resort to putting labels such as ‘Private’ or ‘Special Delivery’ in order to entice you. You will need to be okay with resisting the temptation to allow them into your life.