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Being a Better Neighbor

“How do I let my neighbor know that what they are doing is really bothering me?”

slide001I get this question, in various forms, all the time. As a member of the HOA board, because of my professional experience, and sometimes just because I am always willing to listen.

So how DO you let someone know that what they are doing is a problem? To answer that you have to think about culture and our natural reactions to being shamed. Not to imply that anyone intentionally shames another person. However, the act of telling someone that what they are doing bothers you is at its most basic level; shaming them.

talking-over-the-fence-251x236Let’s define basic freedom. Many folks are unwilling to bother a neighbor with their discomfort for a fear they are in someway taking away from a neighbors freedom by asking them to stop doing whatever it is they are doing…. or in some cases… not doing. A simple way of looking at freedom is the old swinging arm example. As a free person you are welcome to swing your arms around like a crazy person anytime you want. If you find yourself in close proximity to other folks, on an elevator for instance, your right to swing your arms becomes more limited.

PlacemakinglovethyneighborbillboardKeeping that in mind lets examine a simple “problem”. Your neighbor parks their car on the roadway in front of your home. Yes, they can legally park their vehicle there… but lets assume it bothers you. How can you communicate this to your neighbor without starting an all out feud?

Third party intervention. I get into these types of discussions because many neighbors are looking for an easy way out of the problem. They want the HOA or me personally to address the problem. While I am happy to intervene when needed, I always advocate against third party intervention. You are taking a private matter between you and your neighbor and making it public. When was the last time YOU enjoyed being publicly shamed for your actions? Even as a child we learn that punishment is far worse when all of your friends know about it. Its no different when we are adults.

AL-How-to-be-a-great-neighbor1Direct communication. My advice: talk directly with your neighbor about the issue. Express your feelings honestly and be sure to make it apparent you are as embarrassed (if not more so) then they are. Sometimes we allow ourselves to get so worked up about an issue that we become very passionate about it when we try to discuss it. Its important not to allow yourself to become angry as you will probably end up just making your neighbors less neighborly

In most cases you will find your neighbor is not aware the things they are doing are causing you any discomfort. I know I would want my neighbors to tell me if I was hurting them. I care about my neighbors and my neighborhood and want to be seen as a great neighbor. None of us can be great neighbors unless those around us tell us when we are slipping.

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