Easy Ways to Get to Know Your Neighbors
My husband and I had lived in our house almost a year before learning any of our neighbors names. Mostly we knew what they look like and what kind of cars they drove. Also we knew which ones were likely to play loud music or leave their garbage cans out for several days in a row.
Then we decided it was important to know them, so the past couple of years my family has intentionally attempted to make friends with our neighbors. Sometimes it has been awkward, but mostly it has just been rewarding. Here are some of the best things we have found to do to build relationships with those who live nearby.
Getting to Know Your Neighbors - No Preparation Necessary
Go outside in the evenings and on the weekends. This is a no-brainer. Rake, mow, shovel snow, collect your mail, play with the kids, walk the dog, take out the recycling, cut off tree branches, weed the garden, hang Christmas lights, stain the deck, etc at a time when most people will be home and potentially doing the same thing. In other words, be visible; it is pretty hard to meet someone you never see.
Be observant and comment on activities. I don’t think this has to be some hokey-fake form of conversing. Whether you know it or not, you have plenty of things in common with your neighbors. You likely speak the same language, make similar incomes, have basement floods at the same time, are annoyed with the same potholes, have kids at the same school, and vote on the same issues. All of these things can be used to start conversations and build relationships with each other.
Did your neighbor just get new siding and you need it too? Ask her questions. Is your neighbor wearing an Oklahoma State sweatshirt while living in Illinois? Congratulate him on his good taste :). Do your neighbors have a Central High School Football Player sign in their yard? If you like high school football, ask for a schedule and cheer on their player. (If you don’t like high school football, there might be something wrong with you!) Then find out what their names are and remember them.
Ask for favors. I’m hoping someone will let me know if I am out in left-field on this one. We have no family in the area, so when we go on vacation, we ask neighbors to pick up our mail and feed the cat. We have done this since before we even knew our neighbors’ names. I had noticed a teenage girl going into a house a few doors down and asked her mom if she would be interested in helping us while we were gone. We did pay her, but it was minimal. This has started a great relationship with them.
Neighbors are great resources for other things as well. We enjoy hearing about good vacation spots from our neighbors. We also regularly drop neighbors off at work when a vehicle is in the shop. One of our neighbors gives me Mary Kay samples. Another neighbor tells me when new products at her bookstore come in that my kids will like. One neighbor allows me to practice my Russian with her. And one neighbor is my running partner. Somehow my husband has become the go-to person for setting up wireless internet for our neighbors. And of course, we regularly borrow spices and baking dishes from each other.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” -C.S. Lewis
I don’t think most people are comfortable asking for a favor until they know you are also comfortable asking for one. So don’t be afraid to ask first! Once my husband decided to replace both toilets in our house at the same time. He failed to ask me – his very pregnant wife – if I needed to use one before uninstalling both of them. Needless to say, I ended up trekking through the snow to a neighbor’s house and humbly asking if I could use the restroom. We are great friends with those neighbors now!
I am guessing that this asking-for-favors could easily be taken too far. Please don't hear me saying that you should take advantage of your neighbors! Those kinds of "friendships" don't last.
Have an open door policy. One of our neighbors regularly cares for her 6 and 7 year old grandchildren. They are at my house almost as often as they are at hers.
Side note: I do not get stressed about laundry in the living room that needs to be folded or about a stack of bills on the secretary. This policy is helping me be a more authentic person. However, I have been known to throw all the toys on the living room floor into a laundry basket and stash it in my bedroom when I see someone walking down my driveway. Just trying to be honest here.
We have done other, slightly more involved, activities to get to know our neighbors also. Those activities are more effective at building relationships than the ones listed in this hub. You can check them out here. I would love to hear some ways you have gotten to know your neighbors as well.
Thanks for reading!