How to Turn Problem Neighbors into Good Neighbors

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Have you ever wished that you could turn problem neighbors into good neighbors? Changing them to suit your tastes may seem like a fantasy; but while there are no guarantees, it won’t hurt to attempt to make your wish a reality.

Step 1. Identifying the Problem

Before doing anything, you must first understand the nature of the problem. Ask yourself a few questions about why you consider your neighbors to be problem neighbors. Are they noisy? Do they throw parties at times when you’re normally asleep? Does their trash sit near their door for prolonged periods of time, stinking up the hallway? Make a list of all the things that bother you about them. Then, pick the top one or two problems, and focus on those issues.

Step 2. Planning Your Approach

Never approach problem neighbors when you’re angry or frustrated. Doing so is a recipe for disaster. Based on the problems that you identified earlier, write down what you would say to them, to encourage them to change. Politeness is a must. And, prepare yourself to be conciliatory, not contentious.

Step 3. Opening a Dialog

To maximize the odds of success, find a good time to open a dialog for expressing your concerns. Know your neighbor’s schedule. Choose a time when they are relaxed, not in the middle of another activity which they would deem more important. Start with an opening line such as: “I just wanted to bring something to your attention, that you may not be aware of.” Introducing the problem in an open-ended, non-confrontational manner is the best way to promote listening with an open mind.

Step 4: Finding Common Ground

Often, your problem neighbors are unaware that they’re causing a problem. Like you, they’re living their own lives and may not know how their activities affect you. Look for things that you share in common. Shared interests can be hobbies or a common foe, such as a bad landlord. Establish common ground, to help your neighbors put themselves in your shoes. People are more likely to accommodate you if they see you as a friend or ally.

Step 5. Working with Neighbors for Your Mutual Benefit

If you’ve managed to get the problem neighbors on your side, use this alliance as a basis for proposing ways you can live together in harmony. Tell them how certain activities they engage in are bothering you. Apologize for them, assuring them that you understand how any adverse affect they’ve had on you was unintentional. Ask them to modify their troublesome behavior. Don’t expect them to completely stop activities that are a normal part of their life. Accept compromises in their activities, to prevent infringement on your rights. Be willing to make concessions yourself. You may be surprised to learn that you do things that bother them, as well.

By following these steps, you may successfully complete your first case of dispute resolution, thereby acquiring important skills which can be applied in the future.


Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.

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