Almost everyone experiences neighborly irritation at some point in their lives. Whether you’re fed up with thumping music keeping you awake all night or enraged by a neighbor’s terrible parking skills, living close to others inevitably comes with a few downsides.
But what should you do if a nuisance neighbor is disturbing the peace on your street and wreaking havoc with your stress levels? According to a study examining the neighborly habits of Americans, one in six people claim to have moved home to get away from unpleasant neighbors. If problems are allowed to fester, a neighborhood rupture could carry life-altering ramifications.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. By de-escalating the problem early, you can prevent embarrassing or upsetting confrontations and get on with your life uninterrupted. Hey, you may even become friends with your imagined adversary – stranger things have happened! To help you get started, we’ve listed a few tips for tackling conflict head-on:
Organize a calm interaction
Don’t approach your neighbor when you’re feeling angry. We often say impulsive or exaggerated things when we’re wound up, meaning you could offend or aggravate your neighbor further. Rather than knocking on their door and ordering them to turn their music down, schedule a time to talk when you know you’ll be relaxed. Planning in advance also gives you time to plan what you’re going to say and how you will handle their reaction. We recommend meeting on a sidewalk or front yard to ensure the interaction remains civil, particularly if you feel physically threatened by the neighbor.
When you meet, try to remember the following steps:
Don’t blame your neighbor for the issue: Instead, let them know what is bothering you and suggest a few ways you could work together to find solutions. Focus on your feelings rather than the wrongness of their actions – this will help your neighbor feel empathy toward you.
Listen carefully: Listening closely to your neighbor’s response is key to maintaining a civil interaction. Issuing interruptions or corrections will demonstrate that you don’t care about your neighbor’s side of the story.
Apologize for any wrongdoing on your part: We hate to break it to you, but conflicts are rarely entirely one-sided. If it turns out you’ve been a less-than-perfect neighbor, accept responsibility and apologize.
Use non-threatening body language: Don’t cross your arms or loom over your neighbor, as they may interpret your body language as a threat.
Focus on solutions: Don’t dwell in the past – try to keep your words in the future tense to demonstrate your optimism that things will get better.
Write a personal letter
Are you more of a wordsmith than an orator? Some people find it difficult to articulate themselves accurately or coherently in stressful situations and prefer to express themselves using the written word. If this sounds like you, why not write your neighbor a carefully drafted letter explaining your problem? As well as helping you avoid uncomfortable interactions, this approach will allow your neighbor to digest the information in their own time and develop a considered response.
Consult your neighborhood association or condo committee
If the above approaches don’t work, reach out to your neighborhood association for help. After all, your other neighbors may be experiencing the same issues. There’s strength in numbers, so arrange to meet up over a coffee and draw up a tactful plan of action.
Make a complaint with your local precinct
If your neighbor continues to annoy or intimidate you and others, it’s time to get the local authorities involved. A call from an official is usually enough to scare bothersome neighbors into getting their act together. Your complaint will also be anonymized, so you don’t have to worry about escalating the conflict even further.
Enlist the help of a mediator
Depending on the nature of your complaint, a mediator could help to solve your neighborly dispute calmly and methodically. Say, for example, you can’t agree on the precise location of the dividing line between your front yard and that of your next-door neighbor’s. A mediator will help you resolve the issue through official legal means. You can hire mediators via your police precinct or local courthouse.
File a complaint with the courts
Unfortunately, some people are relentless in their quest to bother their neighbors. If you just can’t seem to resolve the conflict at hand, don’t be afraid to get the courts involved as a last resort. While it may cost time and money, this approach will ensure you aren’t forced to move away from an area you love.