In a fit of frustration, I did what I usually never do and took to Facebook to vent about the perils of living under “Thunderfoot.” The noise got so bad that I went upstairs to halt what I thought was sure to be a raging Zumba class, only to discover a polite man, the adorable 2-year old culprit — and a floor with no rugs.
My neighbors and I made peace — and eventually even grew friendly — but as it turns out, I’m far from alone in the arena of neighborly issues. Not only did my friends have a lot to share on the topic, according to a Homes.com funded study about neighborly relationships and conduct, more than a third (36 percent) of those polled had taken to having actual, full-blown showdowns with neighbors — and a quarter of those are long-running.
Why? Most commonly, people get into it over stuff like parking, animal noise, general noise and garbage.
It also explains why over 40 percent of those polled go out of their way to avoid their neighbors. Even if there is no conflict, here’s why so many polled would still cross the street to dodge a friendly hello from next door: being too busy, thinking their neighbors are “weird,” or feeling like they’re too nosy.
Why is it so hard for people to love thy neighbor? Scott Wilson, a clinical psychologist and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers College Columbia University, says whenever you end up with a mix of people with unrelated lives right next to each other, the chance of conflict is pretty high.
“Neighborly conflict is probably more driven by resentment over unresolved conflicts rather than just people treating each other badly, even though this can happen,” he says.
Interestingly enough, Rutgers research revealed that constant “low level” contact with your neighbors, or no contact with them at all, is linked to declining levels of psychological well-being in middle and later life. In fact, positive relationships with your neighbors can make all the difference in a middle-aged or senior person’s outlook and state of mind.
Neighborly conflict is probably more driven by resentment over unresolved conflicts rather than just people treating each other badly.
Emily Greenfield, the study’s lead researcher and associate professor for Rutgers School of Social Work, says older people might place more value on their neighborly relationships because a) they’re home more and b) they often need to help each other out just to get by.
When having a spat with the guy or gal next door, it’s in your best interest to resolve it as quickly as is possible, says Wilson. How? Try these make-nice tactics:
Sometimes both parties need time and space to cool down.
Are you fighting because you really feel wronged? Or are you being stubborn? Sometimes being the bigger person and giving in is really winning.
Standing your ground? Respect your neighbor’s right to stand theirs, too.
Sometimes, both parties need to make a sacrifice in the name of peace, quiet and the greater good.
An opportunity to work with your neighbor toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Of these strategies, cooperation is a good end goal to have, but it strongly depends on the given situation, or how we prioritize our needs in relation to the other person’s needs, says Wilson.
After all, you never know when a positive relationship with your neighbor might come in handy. Greenfield, who is currently researching ways to encourage more neighborly behavior in communities, says younger age groups might want to consider taking a tip from their older neighbors.
“People get that family and friends are important, but neighbors can be overlooked. You can’t force a neighborly relationship but it’s better not to take your neighbors for granted, create conflict or be flippant or negative, because you might need them to help you out one day when you can’t help yourself,” she says. “It’s a missed opportunity.”