When you think of all the relationships in your life, there are a few that tend to get star billing. Spouses, children, and BFFs rank at the top, and there are loads of coworkers and cousins to round out the middle ranks.
But what about your neighbors?
Many people don’t spend much time thinking about the potential friends that live just down the street or right in their building complex, but to ignore the importance of good neighbors would be to miss out on relationships that can really improve your quality of life.
Getting along with neighbors can have a huge impact on your day-to-day living and how you feel about your home and neighborhood. A great neighbor will feed the cat while you’re on vacation, keep an eye on the kids when they’re playing outside and keep you informed about the latest community news.
And a bad neighbor? Let’s just say that constant strife with someone who lives next door is a recipe for a very unpleasant living situation, and even the smallest disagreement can bring big headaches if you don’t have at least a foundation of basic politeness working for you.
Whether you’re looking to make close friends or just moving into a new home, neighborly etiquette is an important skill for everyone to learn. Here’s how to break the ice and maintain amicable ties with the people who live near you.
First Things First: Introductions
If you’re the one moving into a new neighborhood, the idea of going around the block to meet a bunch of new people can feel overwhelming when you have so many boxes to unpack and organize. You don’t have to make introductions right away, but definitely wave and say hello to everyone you see. A quick introduction to give your name and say that you just moved in is all it takes to get things started out on the right foot.
And if you’re an introvert? Leave a note! A quick, handwritten note giving that introduction (and maybe your phone number, if you’re comfortable with sharing). You can also mention that you’re looking forward to your new living situation. It’s an easy and thoughtful gesture — and gets you out of a conversation that may go on longer than you’d like.
If, on the other hand, someone new moves into your neighborhood, take the time to welcome your new neighbor within the week of those moving vans arriving. The best way to break the ice is to bring a yummy treat along as a welcome gift — homemade cookies or a jug of fresh lemonade are easy choices and will be appreciated in the midst of unpacking. If you don’t cook, try a gift certificate to your favorite local pizza place instead. Having a gift in hand makes your introductions easier because it gives you a reason for stopping by. Give your name, welcome them to the neighborhood and offer to be available for any questions. Just a bit of time invested now will go a long way to building solid relationships for years to come.
Building On Your Base: Stay In Touch
You don’t have to become best friends with your neighbors if you don’t want to, but it’s always a good idea to touch base every so often to maintain good will. Say hello or wave when you’re out and about, and be proactive if you’re having a party or doing something out of the ordinary that could cause tension. It’s a good idea to let your neighbors know ahead of time and give them your phone number so they can let you know if it’s too loud — it’s an even better idea to invite them to come, too.
Another way to keep in touch with your neighbors is to let them know when you’ll be away and ask them to keep a look out for anything unusual while you’re gone. In return, offer the same for them, or to bring in their mail or newspaper if needed. These easy tasks take only a minute to complete but go a long way toward building neighborly bonds.
Troubleshooting: Be Diplomatic
Certain issues tend to be problem spots when you share a hallway, wall or fence with another family. Common disagreements include arguments over noise, pets and cleanliness. It’s crucial that you know the regulations or bylaws for your living space — and that you observe them scrupulously. When you follow the rules, you’re being respectful, and you’ll know that you’re within your rights if you do run into a difficult situation.
Still, it often pays to go beyond the letter of the law when it comes to getting along with your neighbors. Keep your yard tidy and your pets under control, even if there’s no official rule about it. As for noise, be considerate. Most people can forgive a loud party once in a while, but regular sleep deprivation can make even the nicest neighbors miserable.
If, on the other hand, you’re the one who has a problem with a neighbor, take a deep breath and stay calm. It’s always best to address the situation in person. Remember, your neighbor may not realize that the TV is so loud, so a friendly request to keep things down is a good starting point. A personal conversation is always the first step before escalating and making a report to the authorities, whether that’s your neighborhood association or the local police department.
Level Up: Building Community Ties
If you’re interested in more than a passing hello from your neighbors, you can work to build even stronger bonds by getting your building residents or the people on your block together for some fun activities. Try these ideas to bring your neighbors together:
- Start a gardening club, book club, or neighborhood improvement association.
- Organize a neighborhood garage sale.
- Start an annual block party or monthly potluck.
- Set up a community library of books or tools.
- Start a tutoring program or game days for the neighborhood kids.
- If you live in a community or building governed by a homeowners association, become part of a committee.
Having great relationships with your neighbors ensures that you have someone to rely on for that cup of sugar for a cake or extra nails to finish your project. Even if you don’t become best friends, living in harmony is an important gift to give yourself. You’ll enjoy your everyday activities much more when you can relax in the knowledge that you live in a peaceful corner of the world where people get along and help each other. Good relationships with your neighbors isn’t automatic, but it doesn’t take too much effort to achieve — and the results are definitely worth it.