How to Prevent a Neighbor Dispute from Escalating

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A neighbor dispute is never fun, but they don’t have to get out of hand. As long as your neighbor is a reasonable person, you can use conflict resolution strategies to keep things under control. Here are some ideas you can employ to try to keep your neighbor dispute from escalating.

1. Apologize When It’s Your Fault

If the dispute is over something you did, even if you did it inadvertently, an apology can go a long way. Swallow your pride and tell your neighbor you’re sorry, and ask if there’s some way you can remedy the situation. It’s difficult for most people to stay angry if someone genuinely apologizes to them. It puts the ball back in their court when you do this. A word of advice though: Apologize in person. Don’t do it on the phone, by email or in writing.

2. Talk It Over On “Neutral Ground”

See if they’re amenable to talking about the situation somewhere over a cup of coffee. You’re both less likely to start shouting at each other if you’re sitting down in a public place. If you meet in your neighbor’s apartment, or yours, it can make one or both of you uncomfortable. You want the encounter to be as relaxed as possible, so a quiet coffee shop works best.

3. Don’t Get Other Neighbors Involved

There are two reasons for this. Number one, you don’t want your neighbor to feel like several of you are “ganging up” on him. Number two, it’s probably not any of your other neighbors’ business. Keep it between yourself and the offending neighbor.

4. Feed Them

Take them a plate of cookies or some other food you’ve prepared. Something as simple as a gift of food can let your neighbor know that you’re not just another jerk who lives in their apartment building. People find it very difficult to react negatively when you come to their doorstep bearing food. Give it to them along with an apology and an offer to remedy the situation.

5. Write a Letter

If you’re not comfortable with a face-to-face confrontation with your neighbor, consider sending them a letter. Be as polite as possible, and let them know your concerns and how you’d like to see the problem fixed. Sign and date it, and keep a copy of the letter for yourself. Mail it to them or place it against their front door. DON’T scribble a quick note on a napkin or the back of a used envelope and stick it under their windshield wiper. This comes across as rude, no matter what your intent.

6. Go To the Landlord

Another option if you’re uncomfortable with this neighbor is to ask the landlord to intervene. He likely knows the person better than you do, and can help to mediate the conflict or act as a go-between. If you’re serious about keeping the problem from escalating, involving another person-even the landlord-should be a last resort.

As long as your neighbor is a reasonable person, at least one of the above strategies can help resolve a neighbor dispute peacefully. If you know your neighbor, even a little bit, you might be able to gauge which strategy they’ll react best to. Use your best judgment, but also recognize that there may come a time to involve the landlord or seek legal advice if the problem isn’t getting resolved.

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