To live in a great neighborhood and enjoy being part of a tight-knit community, you have to be a good neighbor.
TV shows and films show no shortage of bad neighbors. But what does it mean to be a genuinely good neighbor?
Etiquette experts share ways to build and maintain those positive, long-lasting relationships.
Share important information: A good way to welcome new neighbors is to give them a list of any great housekeeper, handyman, dry cleaner, dog walker or lawn-mowing service you know, with contact information, says Diane Gottsman, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.” Include suggestions on the best and nearest grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies.
Keep up your curb appeal: One ugly home can reduce property values for the entire neighborhood. You don’t want to be the owner of “that ugly house” — the one with knee-high grass, weeds, overflowing gutters, dirty windows, peeling paint or toys scattered across the front yard. “You should be cleaning up the front of your house as much as possible,” says Lizzie Post, co-president at the Emily Post Institute, an etiquette-training business.
Be a responsible pet owner: “Pets can be a big bone of contention between neighbors, so you need to keep them in check,” etiquette consultant Lisa Mirza Grotts says. “When you take your dog for a walk, do not deposit your dog’s poop bag into someone else’s trash can. It sounds basic, but it happens a lot.”
Organize a service project: Attend block parties, community cookouts and other neighborhood events so you can mingle and make friends. Even better, coordinate a community-wide project, such as decking out the neighborhood playground for a holiday or helping senior citizens hang lights, suggests Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol.
Invite your neighbors over: If you just moved in, build rapport by inviting your neighbors over for a housewarming party, instead of inviting only your friends. But “let people know that you’re not accepting gifts,” Post says. “This should be simply a social event.” Once you’ve established a relationship, you could form a neighborhood book club or weekly softball game to deepen friendships.
Don’t gossip: Part of being a good neighbor is avoiding gossip. But, Post says, “good” and “bad” gossip differ. “If a neighbor’s mother passes away, communicating that news to other neighbors so that people can attend the funeral is good gossip.” Bad gossip spreads negative rumors.
Be a respectful host: Keep music at a reasonable noise level when throwing a party — and heed where your guests park. “The last thing you want is for your guest to block your neighbor’s driveway,” Gottsman says. You also don’t want their cars to take up the entire block, which is why Gottsman suggests hiring a valet service.
Abide by community rules: When you live in a homeowners or condo association, you have to comply with the rules, but a lot of people don’t bother to review them, Swann says. These rules may dictate parking restrictions, trash and recycling schedules, landscaping requirements, move-in procedures and more.
Handle conflict judiciously: No matter how friendly you are, you might have disagreements or quibbles with neighbors. Handling these conflicts with tact is crucial. Generally, if you have an issue, try to resolve it with the person directly, face to face, not by text message or email, which can be misconstrued, Swann says.