Friday, November 30, 2012

Dealing with Neighbor Disputes

"Who are the people in your neighborhood...they're the people that you meet each day!" Mr. Rogers' neighborhood contained a Neighborhood of Make-Believe where a dozen or so regular characters carried out their lives in cooperation - or not - while eager children around the world learned valuable lessons about communication, tolerance, and learning to deal with conflict. These neighborhood disputes were always neatly packaged into a 30-minute or less time frame. In real life, disputes between neighbors are not always concluded with the beginning of a sound track. Sometimes they are surprisingly simple and sometimes they require costly legal processes to resolve.


Dealing with Neighbor Disputes

The most common neighbor disputes have to do with boundary lines, noise, pets, and lifestyle differences. Perhaps a remodel is encroaching on your property. Maybe a dog barks incessantly while your neighbors are at work and your baby can't nap. Are the teenagers next door throwing wild parties when their parents are out for the night? These are the things that can take the feeling of "Home Sweet Home" and make them feel more like "Let's put our house for sale..."

Get to know your neighbors. We all get busy, but getting to know your neighbors before a problem begins is one of the best pro-active measures you can take to smooth things out later on. If someone new moved in next door, make as much of an effort as you can to get to know them. If you just moved in, get yourself - and your family - outside to meet the neighbors. People in relationship are much more likely to work cooperatively towards solutions than perfect strangers.

Communicate immediately. Just like in a romantic relationship, early communication can be the key. If you sit there night after night, fantasizing about poisoning the neighbor's dog(s) even though you're an animal lover, you have waited too long. From the moment you get the "red flag" that something is a problem, it's a good idea to voice your thoughts. For one thing, you are much more apt to speak calmly and rationally, and you will be able to suss out what kind of person you are dealing with: humble, defensive, apologetic, accusing, etc. which can help you to formulate a plan.

Communicate in writing. If verbal communication is going nowhere, you should write a professional letter which outlines the things you have done, i.e. calm communication, expressing your concern, etc. and reiterate your desire to resolve the conflict without external help. Not only can a letter serve as a formal intention, it can provide evidence later on should you need to pursue further measures.

Legal help. You can often seek mediation, before actually taking a neighbor to court. There are laws that govern almost every possible conflict, from legal boundaries and trespassing, to noise pollution and privacy violation. In worst case scenarios, it might require legal intervention before your situation is resolved.

Hopefully a visit or two with honest communication will be enough to return your feelings back to neighborly once again.

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