6

Handling Neighbourly Disputes

Neighbours can be a joy. If you find yourself with the right neighbours, they can become friends and even work their way into your heart until they feel like a part of the family. Most of us have neighbours somewhere in between; some of the time they’re too loud and occasionally they hem us in parking, but other times they share their garden’s bounty, take in packages when we’re away or just provide us with a source for neighbourhood gossip. But when the relationship turns sour, it’s time to act. And how can you curtail the issue in an efficient manner without ruining your relationship with the neighbours?

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Smaller, occasional infringements are best ignored.

First of all, it can be really useful to ignore issues if they only happen occasionally. Obviously it’s tempting to go storming over, or bang on the walls when the noise gets to be too much to sleep through. But ignoring these occasional issues is the best way to get through to the next day without damaging your relationship with the people you’ll have to share that wall with until you decide to sell up and move away. While it can be annoying to suck up your irritation, it can definitely pay off in the long run.

Secondly, if you do decide to bring up the problem, do so later. Don’t run out at the time and, angrily, throw things in your neighbour’s face. Simply knock on the door at a time when you’ve calmed down and politely bring up the issue. Don’t lay the blame squarely at your neighbour’s door; “You did this,” and “Why did you,” will serve only to put him or her on the defensive. Try, instead, to start sentences with, “I feel that,” and “We’ve noticed,” which is a more passive approach and conversationally less aggressive in nature.

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Try not to approach your neighbours whilst still enraged.

If you have to phone the police, then do so – but do so whilst being aware that you are not going to repair the relationship. If you can remain anonymous, it may be better for you in the long run. Don’t be intimidated – if there is harassment going on or you have to fear for your family’s safety, you’ll definitely need to phone the police. If this type of thing begins to happen, document every event carefully for later use and make sure the police are made aware of each problem as it occurs. But use the police as a last resort as it will be the strike that finishes any hope of friendship with the neighbours.

Finally, even if you have had to speak to your neighbours about unwanted behaviour, include them in your Christmas card list and, ideally, bring them some warm-from-the-oven cupcakes every now and again. Simple, small gestures such as buying them small gifts like a pretty photo frame or a toy for their dog can go a long way towards smoothing the road between you two. Good fences make good neighbours, that can definitely be true, but occasionally going out of your way to help them have a good day can really have a positive effect on your relationship.

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