Whether a landlord or a neighbor yourself, you may at some time or another be called upon to mediate neighbor disputes. As a neutral third party, you can find a mutually-acceptable solution to a problem without the involvement of the police. This can result in a happier living situation for you and all other residents.
Be Cordial and Neutral
When facilitating mediation the most important thing is be kind and sympathetic with both sides of the dispute. Being angry, rude or attacking any one of the two neighbors will only put them on the defensive and will likely cause the mediation to fail. Tell the neighbors that it is important that they get along for themselves, their families and the entire apartment community, and that you believe mediation will resolve the dispute in a way that everyone will be happy about. This approach increases the likelihood that all participants will arrive at the mediation with an open mind.
Request Facts First, Then Feelings
Don’t let one neighbor begin to spout out angry words or discuss their feelings right at the beginning. The first part of the mediation should focus on laying out the facts of the dispute. Ask who did what when and for evidence of their actions. This will enable you to approach the problem analytically, without being overwhelmed by emotions.
Of course, you will need to take emotions into account, but do so near the end of the mediation or at the very least when all documentation has been gathered. Ask each neighbor how they feel and what they seek, and give them two to three minutes to express themselves. Do not allow name-calling or other abuse, as this will end the mediation’s neutrality.
Facilitate a Solution
Remember, as a mediator you job is to help the fighting parties create a solution to the problem that they both accept. This means that you should not create or force a solution on the parties.