Tips for Being a Good Neighbor
Most of us have neighbors. Depending on block size, and whether you live in a city or a rural area, you may have only one neighbor or you could have dozens. You’ll want to consider this, because just as most of us have neighbors, that means that most of us also ARE neighbors.
Good neighbors are priceless! After all, who doesn’t want an acquaintance to collect the mail or keep an eye on your place while you're on vacation, a trustworthy person to keep an extra set of keys in case of emergencies or just a friendly person who exchanges a wave and smile in passing.
On the other hand, bad neighbors can make life very uncomfortable and extremely frustrating the entire time you’re in your home. What if your next-door neighbor considers you a problem…and you don't even realize it? It’s probably happened at some point in your life that you’ve had a bad neighbor or found yourself accused of being a bad neighbor.
Read on to find out how to establish a good relationship with your neighbors and find out if you're guilty of some less-than-neighborly deeds. You’ll also learn how to handle a few sticky situations when you're the one doing the complaining.
Get Started on Moving Day
It’s a fact that moving is hard work. If you’ve just packed, loaded and moved all of your belongings to your new home, you are no doubt exhausted. You’ve been up to your eyeballs in bubble wrap, boxes, and packing tape, and are attempting to get settled into your new place.
Even though it’s tiring, please make an effort to be friendly. You will no doubt see people driving or walking by your new home, and most likely will see your nearest neighbors at least once as you move in. A nod, with a wave and smile will make a great first impression if you see neighbors while you are busy carrying boxes and furniture into your new home.
If you live near a home that has just been built or sold, you’ve probably been watching the moving process and are just as curious as to who your new neighbors are, what they are like, and where they are from. They are also likely to be curious about you since you’ll now be sharing part of your lives.
It’s interesting to realize that no matter if you are friendly or don’t speak at all to your neighbors, you are still part of their lives. You see each other come and go on a daily basis, watch lawns and yards be maintained, and children get on and off the bus. You see company arrive and dogs being walked to the park. You’ll be in each other’s lives as long as you both live there, so why not make it a pleasant experience?
Have you ever had a bad neighbor or been a bad neighbor?
What’s the best way to get the relationship off to a good start after you’ve waved or acknowledged your neighbor during the move-in? Introduce yourself in a friendly and welcoming way. Whether you're the newbie on the block or the established neighbor, make it a point to introduce yourself at the earliest opportunity.
Of course, if you’re the existing neighbor, you should stop by and say hello and offer a welcoming gift if possible. The classic homemade pie or cookies are always appreciated. In lieu of a gift, offer some helpful advice: "The garbage truck comes by on Tuesdays and Fridays, usually around 10 in the morning, but sometimes he sneaks in at 8."
If you’re the new neighbor you can ask for some advice to break the ice. Asking where the best pizza is or where the closest gym is gives your new neighbors a chance to be helpful. This is common ground and can be the start of a good relationship. Besides, that info will come in handy!
If you’re the newbie you can also use that time to say you hope you haven’t been too much a nuisance with the move, and assure them you will have all the additional boxes or vehicles of your movers cleared out as soon as you possibly can. It never hurts to let them see you are sincere in not wanting to cause a problem. Who knows? It might even get you an offer of help in some way!
Now that everyone has settled in, met and exchanged pleasantries, here are a few more ideas to encourage that “good neighbor” vibe to continue. These tips apply to everyone in the neighborhood.
Don’t Be “That” Neighbor
You know the one… they can’t wait to complain about something before you’ve even had a chance to take care of the problem. While it’s comforting for the people moving in to meet the people next door, it doesn’t feel welcoming to them if you hand them a list of what you think is wrong with their home right away.
If the fence is unsightly, the house has peeling paint, or an awning is rusty, don’t point that out the first time you meet them. Besides making you come across as “that” neighbor, it will dampen their excitement about buying the home and put pressure on them to start renovations.
And this is a lot of pressure, especially if that isn’t possible right away. Give them a chance to settle in and see what they might take care of on their own before you complain. If a true eyesore persists after a few months, ask them if they need help to repair the problem, and recommend a few trustworthy contractors. Your offer of help, though it might be embarrassing to them, will make you look good, and will probably get the problem fixed faster because you were so nice.
The Secret to Being a Good Neighbor
-Don't Be a Nuisance.
-Try to Be a Good Neighbor.
The Secret to Handling Bad Neighbors
-Don't Be a Nuisance.
-Try to Be a Good Neighbor.
Don’t Panic About Your Neighbor’s Dog Right Off the Bat
Not everyone is a dog person. However, just because you’ve had to endure marathon barking sessions, destroyed flowerbeds, and/or little brown surprises in your yard before, don’t assume your neighbor’s pooch will do the same. If the new neighbor’s dog barks at first it could be because he is trying to acclimate to new surroundings. Give him a chance to calm down.
However, if you find that the new dog barks incessantly, or if you’re the new neighbor who just moved next door to Barkley the beagle, be sure to simply calmly walk over and mention your concern. Give them a chance to do the right thing and do something about it before a situation arises that could be avoided by all parties. Maybe the neighbor wasn’t aware of their dog(s) causing a problem in the community, and by you observing some common courtesy, they might be happy do anything they can to fix the problem.
If you’re the one with the dog, be courteous to your neighbors and be aware of your pets. Always use a leash when not in your backyard so he or she (or they) doesn’t run rampant in your neighbor’s yard. And please make sure to clean up after him.
Put yourself in another’s shoes, and imagine how upset you'd be if you, or perhaps your newborn, was prevented from a much-needed nap by the sudden yapping of a nearby dog, or if all of your hard work over the last season in your flowerbed was destroyed one afternoon.
By the way, if you have a problem controlling your dog’s barking or whining, especially if it is disturbing others, consider seeking advice from your local vet or animal organization. There’s no reason your loved one can’t be loved by everyone.
Be Respectful of Your Neighbors
This is probably the number-one neighborly complaint regardless of where you live. Loud footsteps upstairs annoy apartment dwellers, while early-morning yard work can drive suburbanites up the wall. It’s pretty common knowledge that turning on a lawn mower or leaf blower before 8 a.m. on a weekend is not OK.
If you want to know how to handle the noise your neighbor is making, first use your good judgment. If they had a 4th of July barbecue that went a little late and got a bit loud, but that’s the only time it’s happened, let it go. It was a special occasion and everyone is entitled to have parties at their home. However, if you’re constantly being kept up at night by loud parties, that is a problem.
Experts say the best way to handle this is to knock on your neighbor's front door and approach the problem nicely the first time. Try saying something like, “You may not know it, but your stereo is louder than you may realize...” or “I love that you’re enjoying your backyard, but…” The soft approach will not only keep their defenses down, but will likely make them more sympathetic to your case.
Now if you’re the neighbor who is about to throw a party, you can avoid these problems by being courteous and maybe letting your neighbors know ahead of time that you’ll be having people over next Saturday night. Be sure to apologize ahead of time if you disturb them in any way, and tell them when the party will be over so they’ll know when they can expect some quiet.
Often, that’s all it takes to defuse a situation before it escalates. Don’t feel obligated to invite them to your party though. Unless you have really become good friends, it is not necessary or expected. When it comes to the party itself, make sure you stick to your agreed arrangement and ask your guests to be considerate when leaving.
Another way to become a good neighbor is to always practice good parking etiquette, and be courteous with engine noises. When you park your vehicle, be sure not to block anyone's access, or make him or her have to pull out of a very tight spot.
Don't over-rev the engine of your car or motorcycle early in the morning or late at night, and if at all possible, always park in front of your home (or in your driveway), not theirs. Avoid slamming your doors or shining your headlights into your neighbor's windows late at night too.
In neighborhoods, driving way over the speed limit, skidding, screeching, or parking in the street when it’s not necessary are the big no-nos. Nobody likes having to play pinball as they drive down the street dodging cars, having to consider their insurance coverage every time they back out of their driveway because you always park right behind it, or worry about their kids and/or their mailbox every time you pass because you’re driving so fast.
I think the name of the game is simple courtesy and considering others when around you at all times.
Keep it in Your Own House
While we’re on the subject of considering others, if you are an apartment dweller, please remember that hallways are not extensions of your own apartment. Your kids should not be having play dates, soccer games, or mini golf tournaments there. When you come and go you shouldn’t be yelling, laughing loudly or slamming doors. You also should not store things in the hallway outside your door. Golf clubs, baby strollers, and extra boxes do not belong in the hallway and may in fact be a fire hazard.
If you have the misfortune to live in a building where a neighbor is doing any of these things, you should try the polite approach first. Knock on their door and sweetly let them know that their children are disturbing you with their loud play in the halls, or that their items outside their door are making it difficult to pass through the halls. The solution may be as simple as moving those items to a building storage unit, and you could offer to help. If this gets no results, you may have to notify the building manager.
Don’t think that living in a home in a neighborhood doesn’t have the same problems. In a home, the problem is likely old mattresses, broken-down vehicles (in the driveway or even worse, in the street), and weeds. In any case, the rules still apply. The more courteous and kindhearted you are, the more cooperation and friendliness you’ll get back. In this case though, if the problem gets bad enough, the Homeowner’s Association for your neighborhood may will likely be the appropriate people to call.
You’ve probably detected a recurring theme: communication. If you have an issue with your neighbor, please talk to them about it. Don’t contact the police, the neighborhood association, or the property manager as a first resort. Also, don’t leave a note or send an email. The written tone can be misunderstood.
I once heard a friend say that her downstairs neighbor left a note on the door of her apartment telling her that they were rude and inconsiderate with their loud footsteps and noise. She said she had no idea that they were making that much noise but became so nervous afterward that she literally tiptoed around her apartment and if she accidentally dropped something on the floor her heart would skip a beat. Most people would be offended and make that much more noise because of the way the message was delivered.
The fact is, the upstairs neighbor could be just going about their life quite normally. They have no control over how well insulated the building floors are, and may have no idea they are noisy to those downstairs. The unfortunate situation could have been avoided if the neighbor had simply spoken to their neighbor in person to discuss their concern.
Only then they could have seen that the upstairs tenant truly had no idea of their noise and weren’t doing anything excessive on purpose. Together they could have come up with some possible solutions like rugs in areas with hard surfaced flooring, or schedules that they could mutually agree on minimal noise. Always keep in mind that if you need to deal with an unpleasant situation, doing it in person, with as much respect as possible, is always the best solution.
Keep the Borrowing to a Minimum
Now that the lines of communication are open and you’ve hopefully established a mutually good foundation, please remember that your neighbors are not substitutes for the supermarket or hardware store. An occasional borrowed egg when you’re in a desperate situation or asking to borrow a hammer once in a while may be fine but it shouldn’t become routine.
It’s always good to promptly return or replace the item too. To prevent yourself from being a nuisance, a good rule of thumb might be to never ask to borrow from them again unless they ask to borrow from you first. If you reciprocate when they ask you for something, then it can be assumed that they don’t mind your occasional shopping in their pantry or garage.
Don’t Be Critical
The next tip for being a good neighbor is sometimes a hard one. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: My decorating style isn’t the only one around. That wasn’t so hard was it?
In all seriousness, some of the most heated complaints arise over the way someone trims their hedges or decorates for a holiday. What you think is an eyesore others may love. Obviously your neighbor does! Unless your neighbor’s holiday decorations, lawn ornaments, or whimsical bird feeders are a hazard to someone, hold your tongue.
If a cluttered lawn or stoop does become a hazard though, speak with your neighborhood Homeowner’s Association or property management company to confirm exactly what the rules and regulations are before saying anything. Notice I didn’t say to report the perceived offense. Just find out the current regulations. That way you will know if it might be within your rights to ask your neighbor to tidy up for the sake of safety.
Remember the communication rule. You should politely mention the violation (if indeed there is one) in the nicest way you can, and tell them that the association will most likely notice it. You might even say that you noticed it and thought they might need some help. By simply drawing attention to it, they might feel the need to move it out of courtesy or embarrassment.
You may even inform them of the rule in a casual way, because they are most likely unaware that they are in violation. If you have no association or property management company rules and you believe there is an actual safety hazard, simply speak to your neighbor and tell them politely of your concerns.
Do Not Participate in Gossip
Along those same lines, please keep neighborhood gossip to yourself if you want to be a good neighbor. A little friendly chat about the weather is one thing, but telling everyone on the block that Mr. Smith might be having an affair and that the Joneses are filing bankruptcy is another.
There is usually at least one neighbor who makes it his or her business to know what’s going on with everyone. We call them “busybodies.” Don’t encourage that and certainly don’t repeat what you’ve heard. If you’re cornered by that neighbor who does love to discuss the others on the block you might try saying something to diffuse the conversation.
You could say something like, “I can understand why you’re feeling that way, but I just haven’t had that experience with her” or “I’d rather not get involved with that.” Then politely but firmly change the subject or excuse yourself. It will save you some major frustration and headaches later. I’ve always heard if someone talks to you about someone else, they likely talk to someone else about you. Separating yourself in a polite way could be the best defense.
There is a Danish proverb that says, “No one is rich enough to do without a good neighbor.” I hope I’ve given you some useful tips that will go a long way in establishing a great relationship with yours. Keeping lines of communication open, making sure your place is tidy, and observing common courtesy are basically all it takes to make your neighborhood a place where you will make many happy memories, and be glad to call home. Good luck!
Was this article helpful?
Other Articles You Might Like
- Our Crazy Neighbor
I live in a great neighborhood; in fact, it’s where I grew up. Yep, I live in the same house in which I grew up. Almost all of my neighbors have been in their same homes for decades, which is a good thing – except in one case. We have a crazy...
- 6 Ways to Handle Toxic Neighbors
Do you often hide from or avoid people in your neighborhood? Does the person you live next to cause drama so often that you want to drop that relationship like a bad habit? Managing toxic people.
- The Power of a Single Word
The simple words we use can instruct, assist, uplift, or discourage, tear down, and offend. By using different tones, facial expressions, and even volumes, we can convey different meanings, change our
© 2013 Victoria Van Ness