When Being a Good Neighbor
Becomes a Chore

Good Neighbors

Do you know how to be a good neighbor?  If you are kind and respectful to the people who live near you, then I'm sure you are.

But there are situations that make being neighborly a chore.  Especially when you are friendly and easy to talk to.  Perhaps your peaceful daily stroll around your community is interrupted by a neighbor who craves conversation, needs a favor, or can't help sharing all his problems.

Isn't there at least one of these in every neighborhood?

Not to mention the folks who drop by unannounced, keep barking dogs in their yards, or are constantly trying to sell something to you.

How do you handle such a cast of characters?  You simply have to set boundaries.

Good Neighbor Boundaries

We are all individuals and, therefore, all have our own unique preferences and quirks.  So the only way we can get along is if we respect one another's individuality.

For instance, you don't enjoy having people come over unless you are expecting them.  Of course, an emergency situation would be an exception.  You'd be happy to help if needed.  But your next door neighbor, Susan, never has an emergency when she knocks on your door without invitation.

So you set the boundary by not answering the door - as long as Susan can't see you not answering the door.  Or, if you do open the door, you are not obligated to ask her in.  You might instead ask, "How can I help you?"  And when she says she just dropped by for a chat you say, "I'm really busy now.  We'll chat later, okay?"

Always do your best to remain friendly.  Even if the limit you set doesn't seem to be welcomed, your friendliness may help overcome any discord.  After all, you don't want to make an enemy on the street where you live.

Handling Space Invaders

Love your neighbor as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.

~ Carl Sandburg

Do the kids next door find the basketball goal in your driveway irresistible?  Or maybe Ron from across the street needs fresh pears from your tree for a pie?

If you've given them an open invitation to your property, that's one thing.  But otherwise, it may be necessary to speak to them about invading your space.

Again, be friendly, but set your boundary as you see fit.  Perhaps you don't mind these things as long as they ask permission first.  Or perhaps you don't want them on your property at all.  Explain your preference, you can share a reason for it if you care to, and ask for their cooperation.

If you are angered by the issue and really have something to say about it, rest on it for a while and give some thought to what will be more appropriate.  You wouldn't want to incite resentment or hostility with any remarks you make.

And That Neighborhood Gossip . . .

It should go without saying: a good neighbor does not participate in gossip.  A peaceful, friendly community simply doesn't have room for it.

Of course, there is the sharing of good news and bad among neighbors.  But keep this in the congratulatory and "how may we be of help" categories.  When speculation and hearsay enter into the conversation, it's time to change the subject or excuse yourself.

Your Little Corner of the World

Being part of a community has its advantages.  You feel that you belong, have a sense of familiarity with your environment, and maybe even feel needed by those around you.

But a good neighbor has limits and needs to set them.  Remember - kindness becomes a chore when it is taken for granted.  You and your neighbors will exist together more harmoniously when you know and respect each other's boundaries. 


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