A Guide to Being a Good Neighbor
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey on neighbor relations, “A majority of Americans (57%) say they know only some of their neighbors; far fewer (26%) say they know most of them.” Relationships with our neighbors in American culture have changed drastically in recent decades, and this decline in familiarity with our neighbors may be a catalyst for neighborhood tensions, and may mean that you are sacrificing a potentially very useful relationship. Putting a little effort into keeping an open line of communication with your neighbors and showing some extra kindness can make everyone’s lives a lot easier.
This may be an intimidating prospect for some people, but it is important to introduce yourself to your new neighbors as early as possible when moving into a new home. If you don’t feel comfortable marching right up and knocking on their door, it may be worth it to bring them a gift or see if you can catch them in passing outside. That may relieve any uncomfortable feelings about the prospect. Once you have introduced yourself and become acquainted, try and make sure that everyone in both of your households also becomes acquainted if possible. You don’t necessarily have to be friends, but it can be very valuable to build a good rapport with your neighbors.
Teach Your Children
Neighborly habits are best reinforced in childhood. It’s not only important to teach your children how to be a good neighbor due to the value of having a social network with your neighbors, but also because it can help them build social skills and empathy. In addition to making sure that your child has been introduced to the neighbors, put aside time to emphasize to your child the importance of being respectful and mindful of your neighbors. Some ways your children can be good neighbors include the following:
- Not playing loudly in the morning or at night
- Cleaning up toys in the yard when they’re done with them
- Staying off of the street as much as possible
- Being kind to neighborhood pets
- Being kind to other neighborhood children
Maintain Curb Appeal
Your neighbors may begin to resent you if you don’t keep your yard and driveway tidy. And, on the flip side, putting additional effort into your landscaping may endear you to your neighbors and may even make you appear more approachable. Keep your yard clean, and consider adding some nice trees or trying a simple gardening project.
In fact, in some neighborhoods, there may be aesthetic requirements for your home from the local homeowner’s association. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in many repercussions, up to and including fines and lawsuits.
Follow Parking Etiquette
Parking can be a major source of neighborhood conflict, even if there are no official rules or laws governing who can park where. Keep in mind that even if you are pretty easy-going about that type of thing, your neighbors may have stronger ideas of how parking should be handled responsibly in the community. Follow a few best practices about parking to avoid conflict, such as:
- Don’t block other cars
- Don’t take up too much space
- Don’t park in front of others’ homes
- Don’t honk or rev loudly
- Let your neighbors know if you plan to have a lot of guests over, who may take up quite a bit of space in parking areas
Take Care of Your Pets
Pets are another common source of stress and conflict in communities. Many people feel very protective of their pets, but pets can cause other people in the community many difficulties. This is a recipe for high tensions. Therefore, it is important that you are a responsible pet owner and that you teach your pet to be a good neighbor too. The following are a few ways that pet owners can avoid conflict with their neighbors:
- Obey leash rules
- Don’t leave pets outside unattended
- Pick up any excrement
- Replace anything your pet damages
- Discourage your pet from noisy behavior
- Get your pet spayed or neutered
- Get your pet vaccinated
- Make sure your pet is well-socialized with people and other animals.
It is also important to be respectful of pet owners and their pets by doing things like treating pets kindly, discussing any issues with the owner, and avoiding leaving out dangerous chemicals, growing toxic plants, or using poisonous weed killers.
Be Mindful of Space
Always be mindful of your neighbors’ space and privacy, especially if you live in a densely-populated neighborhood. The following are a few ways you can respect your neighbors’ boundaries:
- Don’t look into windows
- Don’t look over fences
- Respect their property boundaries
- Add natural boundaries like privacy trees or shrub hedges
Follow Community Rules
It is of course always important to follow local laws, but individual neighborhoods may also have regulations, such as HOA rules. Furthermore, some communities may have unofficial guidelines and etiquette. For example, in a neighborhood where people walk and bike a lot, it may be part of neighborhood etiquette to be particularly alert for pedestrians. This is another great reason to build a rapport with your neighbors early; they can fill you in on such unspoken rules of etiquette in the community.
In some cases, despite your best efforts, conflict with your neighbors is inevitable. Different people have different ideas about how individuals and communities should comport themselves, and that will sometimes result in an argument, or even a protracted standoff. Fueling such issues will usually accomplish nothing but heightening tensions, so whenever possible, it will be in your best interest to do your best to diffuse tension or approach an issue kindly. While it can be considered rude to go over your neighbor’s heads about an issue rather than reaching out to them first, it may become necessary to talk to a property manager or your HOA if the issue is ongoing.
When in doubt, the best way to be a good neighbor is to always consider the people around you in your community during your day-to-day life.