Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 14 Things You Need to Know About Being A Good Neighbor
Do you know who your neighbors are? According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans say they know some of their neighbors. Whether you frequently talk to your upstairs neighbor or you only see your next-door neighbor on occasion, being a good neighbor is important in establishing yourself as part of the neighborhood and community.
1. Learn the three-step rule
“Our best tip to be a good neighbor is a simple three-step rule: Respect, communication and responsible pet ownership!” says 10 Stars Property Management. “In almost any situation respecting others’ space is a good base for any relationship. Especially with someone living right next door. Just be social and communicate with your neighbors — even just a smile goes a long way! Finally, always be conscious of your pets and their actions. No one wants to step into poop!”
2. Consideration goes a long way
“Being a good neighbor means being considerate of people,” says Nick Slagle of HomeRootsPM.com. “They take care of the appearance of their home and simultaneously are willing to help those in their neighborhood. Good neighbors are friendly and welcoming without being intrusive.”
3. Introduce yourself
“The best way to build into a good neighbor? Introduce yourself!” says Jim Shonts, real estate broker and owner of PMI Elevation. “Neighborhoods can thrive on a sense of community, and getting to know your neighbors soon after moving can help you settle in. And, since not all people are outgoing, those early introductions can give insight on how to respect their personal space.”
4. Show interest
“Whether you are moving in or welcoming a new neighbor, show interest in them by allowing the interruption in your day to greet each other when the opportunity arises,” says Sallie Plass from Etiquette Enrichment. “Ask for or suggest ways to get involved in the neighborhood or community. Intentionally smile, exchange names and phone numbers.”
5. Stay kind
Dr. Lew Bayer, CEO of Civility Experts Inc. suggests that a good neighbor should try to “ease the experience” of the others. “This means try to reduce stress and offer support versus causing stress, e.g. if the neighbor leaves the garage door open, let them know. If the neighbor’s dog barking bothers you, ask if you can give the dog a toy or bone. Turn your music down when you see your neighbor come home. Shovel the neighbor’s walk when you shovel yours. Just do what you can to stay kind…everyone is busy and tired and sometimes struggling. Try to assume the best of people and try to make their life easier versus harder.”
6. Treat your neighbor
“A few days after the new neighbors move in, knock on the door to meet them and include a small plate of homemade cookies or muffins or a seasonal plant (for example, a potted chrysanthemum in the fall) and a sticky note with your name and phone number if they need anything,” says Rachel from the Etiquette Trainer. “Additionally, if there’s a neighborhood Facebook page, let them know about it and encourage them to contact you if they need to borrow anything while settling in, such as a ladder or hand tools.”
7. Prioritize respect
“The adage, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ still holds true,'” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert from The Protocol School of Texas, “It’s important to be respectful of each other, especially when sharing a fence, trees hanging over the roof, drainage coming into the other person’s lawn and an assortment of dilemmas. If you are experiencing an issue, reach out in person, and address the issue in a pleasant tone of voice with an open attitude and collaborative spirit. People are much more willing to work with someone who has a smile on their face and shows an effort to get along.”
“If there is a problem that cannot be dealt with neighbor-to-neighbor, the HOA may need to get involved. When renting, talk to the landlord first before going over their head. A good neighbor respects each other’s property, pets and privacy.”
8. Just say hi
“I think being a good neighbor starts by knowing your neighbors. I make sure to say hello every day. Whether it’s a good day, bad day or if I’m in a rush, I believe acknowledgment goes a long way and eventually, that helps cultivate a deeper and better neighbor relationship,” says Pamela Syvertson, broker and owner of Verandah Properties.
9. Model how you’d like to connect with your neighbors
“Challenge yourself to reach out to a neighbor you wouldn’t normally connect with and set the tone in how you want to connect with them,” says Daniel McArdle-Jaimes, the Strategic Communications Officer for the Office of Community & Civic Life in Portland, OR. “Maybe your neighbor is from another country or is a different age than you. Start by introducing yourself and developing a relationship to help make your block a more welcoming place for all. And who knows? You might make a new friend or regular lunch buddy!”
“Also — during and after an emergency, neighbors offer a powerful source of help. Organizing a neighborhood meeting or training through an organization to discuss emergency plans and personal safety is a wonderful way to build community. Many cities offer free resources, like the City of Portland’s Neighbors Together training, which help to start and host these important safety conversations.”
10. Remember empathy
“In addition to following the rules of your community, being a good neighbor requires empathy,” says Stayce Wagner, LLCM, founder and CEO of Spencer Crane Etiquette. “The ability to see things from your neighbor’s perspective helps you behave with kindness, consideration and respect. A good neighbor cleans up their dog’s poop, doesn’t blast music in the middle of the night and never parks in a neighbor’s assigned space without permission.”
“Additionally, if making small talk with people in your neighborhood is outside your comfort zone, start with a smile, eye contact and a friendly hello. When you feel more comfortable, introduce yourself to the neighbors you see regularly and let things develop naturally. Every introduction won’t lead to a close friendship, but you’ll have established friendly contact.”
11. Talk like adults
“The best advice we can give as a management company is that if you have an issue with a neighbor, you go visit them directly and discuss it in an adult manner. Try this approach first before contacting law enforcement, HOA’s or management companies,” says David Peschio, owner and principal broker at PMI Richmond. “It usually can be resolved without escalation and helps maintain good relationships moving forward.”
12. Remember their name
“Being a good neighbor isn’t difficult, but you need to put a little effort into it to have happy neighborly relations,” says Arden Clise, President of Clise Etiquette and author of Spinach in Your Boss’s Teeth: Essential Etiquette for Professional Success. “When a new neighbor moves in, drop by with some cookies, a plant or some small gift to introduce yourself and welcome them to the neighborhood. Be thoughtful. If you’re shoveling your walk of snow, clear your neighbor’s walk, as well. If you have a neighbor who is elderly, sick or struggling in some way, check in on them and see how you can be helpful. At the very least, make an effort to remember their name and say hello when you see them.”
13. When in doubt, act neighborly
“Remember — be kind. To yourself, to your neighbor, their kids, their pets and their plants and trees,” says Felipe Quintana from Charter for Compassion. “Be forgiving: We all make mistakes — aim to be the best version of yourself. Allow everyone their space but stay there for them on the sidelines if they need a friend. It all comes back in the end!”
14. Keep it friendly
“Being a good neighbor means being friendly and helpful, without being intrusive. Giving a wave and a hello with sincerity is felt and appreciated,” says Mary Ann Brennan, the Director of Rental Services for Del Val Realty & Property Management.
“Love your neighbor as yourself, but don’t take down the fence.” — Carl Sandburg
When you’re looking for a new place to live, make sure to ask your future landlord or property management company about the local community. While you can’t pick who your neighbors are, you can ask questions to get a sense of who could be living next door.
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