How to talk to your neighbours | Queen of Green | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: How to talk to your neighbours

Get to know your neighbours! (Credit: Jode Roberts)

How neighbourly are you?

Before you approach neighbours about the leaves they don't rake, their scented dryer sheets, second-hand smoke wafting into your bedroom window or the car abandoned in their yard, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you coming from a place of judgment?
  2. Are you prepared for the outcome? Are you prepared to change? (They might say something you don't want to hear.)
  3. Is the issue important enough to risk the relationship and potentially create conflict?

And if you have 14 minutes and 47 seconds, this video by Leo Busgaglia reveals a thoughtful analysis of human relationships, including a neighbourly incident that you no doubt can relate to. Leo once asked, "What are we doing stuffing facts into people and forgetting that they are human beings?" He also taught a university class titled "Love" where there were no grades!

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Five things to consider before your next neighbourly encounter:

  1. Establish a relationship first
  2. Recognize their intention
  3. Deal with the person (not the behavior)
  4. Is there anything I can do?
  5. Maybe it's not worth talking about

For example, I have a dog named Kitty. She poops. And on occasion I've been preoccupied in the dog park and missed the big event. This often leads to someone yelling "Hey! Your dog just $#*! over there! Pay attention!" Except for one time when someone calmly said, "Do you need a bag?"

To me, the "how can I help?" attitude made all the difference. Now I try to incorporate it into all my neighbourly encounters, because nobody needs to be $#*! on about $#*!.

How have you successfully dealt with neighbourly dilemmas?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

August 25, 2014

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Jul 10, 2015
10:40 AM

I have five cats. They could be a problem. However, I have spent considerable time watching over them, bringing them home, teaching them that other peoples places are out-of-bounds. It has worked and my cats do not wander—unless I have to direct my attention elsewhere for a lengthier space of time. I also maintain my yard so it is ‘cat-friendly’ meaning there is patches of tall grasses and a rose-bushy area where they can find solitude, watch for rodents or simply hide for awhile. My yard also has many trees which attract wildlife they can entertain themselves watching. I alos feed birds but, I have a fenced in area where I keep the feeders so the birds are not in danger from my cats. Is that all good, or what?

Jun 13, 2015
11:47 AM

Great timing, thank you! I need to have a conversation with a neighbour. Is there anything I can do/how can I help will make all the difference in the outcome.

Sep 03, 2014
6:15 PM

One challenge I have in biting my tongue is my enthusiasm for wanting to help others.

Everyone has different bits of skills and knowledge, and when I see a group or small business struggling I want to pitch in and give them a boost. I would like people to do the same thing for me.

However, not everyone appreciates unsolicited free advice even if it is something that could save them hours of work or hundreds of dollars.

Oddly enough they will go and pay someone else hundreds of dollars for advice, and THEN come bask to me saying ..”Y’know when you told me …You were right!”

So, how do you offer help in a way that people will accept it? This is a challenge.

Aug 27, 2014
2:48 PM

This is very good information for all of us. Too often we forget to consider our neighbors’ compacity to accept positive suggestions for improvements. My experience has been people don’t accept change readily. I suppose it is mostly relative. Thank you for these types of topics, just keeping a peaceful neighborhood is so important for our families- particularly our children.

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