Thursday, January 30, 2014

5 Ways to Engage a Stand Offish Neighbor

Meeting new neighbors can be a challenge, especially if you live in a neighborhood where most folks come and go without really saying hi or getting to know each other.   Connecting with neighbors can be even harder, especially when some of your neighbors might appear stand-offish or difficult to reach.  But, most people really are friendly and open to conversation once you get to know them.  The trick is knowing how to engage them.  Here are 5 simple steps.

1) Notice things about your neighbor. I'm not advocating that you stalk a neighbor or get too personal or nosy, but it is a good idea to notice things like an avid gardener's efforts paid off or a new paint color on the family down the street's house. Sometimes small things you observe can be an open door to a conversation starter. "I have always wanted to know what those flowers are..." or "I've never tried growing my tomatoes, but you've made me want to try next summer" or "Wow! I love the gray paint you picked for your house. It really stands out." Most times, people love to talk about the little ongoing projects and hobbies they are involved in. This will give you a chance to hear/know more about them.

2)Kill 'em with kindness...and food, always food. A great way to invite yourself over to someone else's house is to come bearing food. When we first moved to our neighborhood, I brought muffins to each of our three elderly neighbors. They were all so excited. And, though the 3 of them were very close knit with one another, they rarely talked to any of the young families in our neighborhood.  Now, when any one of them is out of their houses- they cross the street (and risk bodily injury with all the little bikes speeding down our hill) to come and say hi.

3) Offer to help OR ask for it. If you know a neighbor is going to be out of town, offer to mow their lawn, take in and out their trash cans, or dog sit. If you are going to be gone,  ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house. Asking for and giving help builds a relationship of trust and trust is the foundation of true community.

4) Be polite.  In our neighborhood, there are some issues with parking.  People who live on the busy street down the way, park their cars along our street because there is no room for them to park along their own street.  This can cause all sorts of frustrations.  Neighbors will speed off huffily when they can't find a spot, or pin one another in when they are angry or in a rush to get home.  Another friend of mine has a neighbor who writes her anonymous notes about her barking dog- leaving her to feel stressed and helpless all the time.  If you have some similar issue going on in your neighborhood, think twice about how you handle yourself.  If you truly want a  strong, and vibrant community- treat others with love and respect even when it's hard, which sometimes it just is.

5) Be patient. If all of your efforts don't seem to be paying off, and you have a neighbor who is slow to warm, don't push it too much. But, also, don't let up. Sometimes, we give up too easily on people.  Just continuing to say hi, offering the occasional kind gestures, and continuing to notice and acknowledge things about someone will likely eventually lead to an open door.

It can feel like a challenge getting to know your neighbors, especially if some neighbors don't seem like they WANT to be known. But, building a strong, interdependent community is a benefit to everyone. So, don't give up! It might take a little time and lot of heart, but you'll get there.

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