Thursday, July 28, 2011

Playing Nice with Neighbors

It happens to the best of us. When it comes to decisions about our home, we can get quite territorial. How can you handle neighborly disputes and still play nice?

The first rule of neighbors is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. There is a common misconception among the prideful that respect is earned and that only when others treat you with respect will you return the favor. This sentiment is entirely backwards. You need to treat everyone with respect from the start. Respect breeds respect.

It's also easy to keep our blinders on to other people's needs and perspectives. Perhaps you have the money to fix a fence and assume your neighbor has the same. It is quite likely that your preferences, tastes, and finances are different from your neighbor's.

Be willing to see things from their perspective. Take a moment during any conflict to see the situation through their eyes. Maybe those trees partially obstruct your view, but provide your neighbors with shade during the heat of the day.

Next, unless there's unlawful behavior taking place that needs to be reported to the authorities, be sure to talk to your neighbors first about an issue before lodging a formal complaint. They may be unaware that their noise or mess is offending anyone. Many people assume that things are fine unless someone says something.

When you bring up issues to neighbors, leave your attitude and condescension at home. This gets you nowhere, except deeper into conflict. Be kind, direct, and leave the blame game at home. Simply let them know what the issue is and, if needed, what you see as a possible solution.

During this conversation it's important to listen. What is your neighbor saying literally and through body language?

Keep in mind that neighbors often live next door for decades. You don't want to let a minor issue become a dark cloud that hangs over your home. There is a time to fight and there's a time to let things go. While some people see letting things go as a sign of weakness, it can actually be a sign of wisdom.

Compromise isn't always an easy word to swallow. It can mean giving up some of your wants. Yet, this is what living in a community with others means. It is not "Youtown," but rather a wonderful collective of individuals. You may get a new fence, but one that is priced more cheaply. You may still get to have your band practice on the weekends, but need to practice at an earlier time or a lower volume.

With all that said, sometimes you'll encounter neighbors who are too enveloped in their own lives to see the needs and wants of others. If you have a neighbor that suffers from this self-absorbed affliction, then it is time to either accept the situation as it is, or to take the next steps to remedy it. You may need to contact the HOA, authorities, or a lawyer. Do this only as a last resort.

Most of the time, however, you can find a middle ground if you start with respect.

Published: July 28, 2011 by Carla Hill

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