In the news recently, there have been stories of nasty neighbors leaving notes for individuals to find. Personally, I find that reprehensible not only as an etiquette expert but as a fellow neighbor, too. I’m reminded of the woman who recently received prosthesis and had a disabled sign put on her parking spot in the condominium complex. One of her neighbors decided to purposely park in her spot. When the woman kindly asked the person not to park there, the written response received was beyond comprehension. And now the latest “nasty neighbor” story comes to us from a grouchy individual who seems to think their animals are bothered by the happy laughter of a child in the backyard. Really?? The person who is really bothered is the writer of the note and not the animals.

Sometimes we can be cursed with terrible neighbors. Or we just happen to have neighbors that bother us from time to time. Knowing how to communicate our needs when emotions are high is a great skill both professionally or in our social life, too.

1. Always be polite & respectful…never get defensive. Maybe the neighbor wasn’t aware of their actions and the impact on you. Pick your battles. You’ll be living in close quarters with this person. Is it necessary to make something an issue?

2. Don’t blame others like their children/pets…don’t become combative.

3. Listen without interrupting…take time to process the information before responding.

4. Use appropriate listening skills to show that you’re paying attention…make sure your body language is positive, too.

5. Never make a rash decision. Give yourself at least 24 hours to reduce any impulsivity that you’ll regret later. Writing nasty letters should be avoided. If you have no alternative but leave a note, keep the tone very positive.

6. Focus on the issue…never make it personal. Be willing to compromise, if possible. If your neighbors son/daughter practices the drums at the same time as your baby naps, suggest a better time for practicing that isn’t disruptive to your family.

7. Use “I” words like “I feel upset when (fill in the blank)…” so the other person doesn’t feel judged.

8. Assert politely…apologize if it’s warranted. That can often mitigate sparks. Apologize if the music was too loud at the party. In future, let neighbors know they can contact you if the sound level is getting a bit noisy.

9. Leave, if the situation becomes violent or the person threatens to call the police.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to experience those types of neighbors but if something crops up, these tips will go a long way to building bridges within your community. One concrete way is to get to know your neighbors as real people not just nameless or faceless. Invite them over for a visit…ask their advice if you’re having trouble with insects or which plants work best in the yard. This will lead to creating happy neighborhoods.


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Maria and her Etiquette Program have been featured in several media outlets including:

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