Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live in neighborhoods reminiscent of the Mr. Rogers era? I grew up in a time when neighbors knew and cared about one another. Even those who were not particularly social or well-liked were treated with dignity and respect. Somehow, everyone figured out how to live in harmony with others.

Today we live in a much less tolerant world. Even those with the best intentions may find themselves having to deal with a contentious neighbor. I was in such a situation when I purchased my current home. Two doors away lived a young man who had a garage band that practiced into the wee hours of the night. The music was undeniably irritating and loud. It was imperative that I discuss this issue with him, as it was creating distress for my husband and me.

Here are some suggestions to employ when resolving disputes with difficult neighbors:

  1. Check your attitude before approaching them. Make certain it is respectful, cooperative, and positive. More than any other factor, attitude determines the course and outcome of any discussion.
  2. Begin the conversation by introducing yourself. Offering information about one’s self eliminates the status of stranger, thus putting the other person at ease. “Hi. I’m your neighbor in the green house next door. I moved here two weeks ago.”
  3. Take a few moments to get to know the other person. Show an interest in who he or she is. “How long have you had your band? Do you perform in the area?”
  4. Say something positive. Offer a compliment if possible. “It sounds as though you really enjoy playing together. Music is such an important part of life. I hope you have a ton of success.”
  5. State your concern about the issue at hand, offering the benefit of the doubt. “I’m sure you don’t realize it, but sometimes your music interferes with my ability to sleep at night. It can get a bit loud.”
  6. Make your request (not demand) by eliciting their assistance. “Would it be possible to either end your rehearsals earlier or lower the volume? That would really help me a lot.”
  7. Negotiate the issue if necessary, being willing to make reasonable adjustments. Compromise is a critical component to reaching a permanent resolution.
  8. End on a positive note, thanking the other person for his or her time and cooperation. “I really appreciate your help. Maybe some day I can come to one of your gigs.”

Dispute resolution need not be arduous or ugly if we remember a few gracious tenets: Always speak to others with dignity and respect; never accuse, make assumptions, or threaten; try to understand other people’s position; be reasonable and fair in your requests; show appreciation for their time and cooperation.

It’s not difficult to learn to live in harmony with one another in a Mr. Rogers kind of neighborhood. After all, my neighbor and I did.

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