The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Loud Neighbors
Aug 21, 2015
Living in a quiet community sometimes isn’t so peaceful. There’s often that one neighbor who seems to be doing things that can get under your skin. The person could be hosting one rowdy party too many, or leaving the front yard a mess, or mowing the lawn in the early hours of a Saturday morning. This can be a pain in the neck, especially if you just want to spend a relaxing evening in your home.
Confronting a noisy neighbor about perceived transgressions can be a delicate and stressful situation—but it doesn’t have to be, says Anna Post, an etiquette expert who is the co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition” and the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post.
“Ask yourself if this is a one-off thing or if this is a constant?” says Post. “If your neighbor has a party once a year, try to make it through that party and try not to worry about it.”
To help navigate you toward a peaceful resolution, Post offered her “do’s and don’ts” for those times when you’re unsure of how to deal with a neighbor’s bad behavior.
Pick Your Battles, and Do so Wisely
Think first about picking your battle, as not every battle may be worth the fight.
“If you’re picking every battle, you’re going to be pretty unpopular, and you’re probably unreasonable,” says Post.
Approaching your neighbor about playing their music the night before is one thing. Confronting that neighbor every time the music is too loud for your liking may be an indication that you’re “allergic to them, and maybe they’re not doing so many bad things as you think they are,” she adds.
Don’t Write Your Neighbors a Letter or Report Them to Others
No matter how hard you try to write a cordial note of complaint to leave on your neighbor’s door, you may come across as being more snarky than friendly.
“People are not awesome at writing notes when they want to correct someone else’s behavior,” says Post. “Notes can come across as being passive-aggressive.”
It’s OK to report your neighbor’s disagreeable behavior to your landlord, condo board, or homeowners association if you need to—but try to speak with your neighbor first yourself, if possible.
“You’re getting your neighbors in trouble before they’ve had a chance to remedy the situation,” says Post. “It could have been an honest mistake.”
Do Meet Them in Person
You’re likely to get a better response from your neighbors if you meet with them directly than you would if you wrote them a letter.
If you do decide to confront your neighbors—in a diplomatic fashion—be sure to limit the amount of time you spend explaining your complaint.
“It can get grating if you go on and on about how [their behavior] affects you,” says Post. “One mention is fine.”
Also be sure to meet with your neighbors at a reasonable time, between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“If you bump into them on the street, ask if they have a moment, and then state your case,” says Post.
Don’t Get Defensive
Sometimes your neighbors may take issue with something that they think is bad behavior. If that’s the case, Post advises that you don’t get defensive.
“The times when it gets bad [are] when you did a mistake and you insist that you didn’t,” says Post. “Everybody’s worlds get unpleasant.”
Do Take a Deep Breath
Instead of being reactive for being called to task, take a step back and ask yourself if your neighbor has a point.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing this’ is a really great answer,” says Post.
Admitting to anything doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, says Post. “All you’re saying is that you made a mistake and you should both move on.”
Do Ask Yourself If You’re a Good Neighbor
Much like your neighbors, you may not be aware of how your behavior is affecting them.
If you’re unsure, take a step back and ask whether or not you’re a good neighbor, Post suggests.
For instance, ask yourself if you run your lawnmower at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning? Do you play your music really loud? Do you leave a mess in your front yard?
If you’re not sure about how loud your music sounds outside your home, go outside and see what it sounds like.
“Believe me, one of the things you don’t want to have happen is to go to a neighbor with your problem and then have them turn around and say ‘well you did blah blah blah,’ even if that has nothing to do with what you’re complaining about. It just muddies the waters,” says Post.
“Also avoid the whole ‘it’s a free country’ argument,” she adds. “Just don’t go there.”
Do Inform (and Invite) Your Neighbors About Your Upcoming Party
Every summer Post and her husband throw a party in their backyard, and they make it a point to let their neighbors know in advance.
“One of our neighbors is a nursing home, and we give them our phone number and say that if they have any problems with the noise, give us a call,” says Post.
Above all else, Post says that resolving issues with your neighbors can be a friendly and peaceful affair, and it all boils down to how you approach them.
“Being willing to work with your neighbors to find a compromise will go a really long way,” says Post. “It shows that you’re reasonable.”
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