Defusing Conflicts With Neighbours in Toronto

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You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone over 30 who hasn’t had a run-in with a neighbour.

The single dudes next door who crank it up every Friday and Saturday night. Or the cranky old man spewing passive aggressive remarks when he sees you. Nothing short of cloaked insults. Just for not cutting your lawn as short as he keeps his.

Conflicts can and do arise over the most mundane things!

However, don’t be fooled into thinking this thing will go away if you ignore it. It won’t. Dealing with problem neighbours requires strategy.

Take care in how you approach the situation. Otherwise, you could channel the Hatfields and McCoys – right on your own property!

Confronting neighbours with anger or aggression can quickly destroy any hope of repairing an already compromised relationship.

But here’s how you can put your best foot forward to prevent that destruction.

Approach your neighbour with care. Then you can defuse conflict and pave the way for a mutual understanding and respect.

Not sure what to say to your neighbour? It can feel daunting at first, but the more prepared you are, the easier it will be.

Here’s a 9-point guideline to help you gain confidence in starting to see your neighbour in a more positive light and open a new line of communication.

  1. Show genuine respect
  • Everyone wants to feel respected. As hard as it might seem to respect the person who has been causing you so much grief – try empathizing with him or her. Put yourself in your neighbour’s shoes and you’ll be more likely to genuinely feel respect.
  1. Speak with strength
  • This will help you gain your neighbour’s respect. Strength in your voice and demeanour will contribute to a solid stance in your position as a good-willed neighbour who speaks from a place of knowledge and caring.
  1. Listen to your neighbour
  • Truly listen. Without judgement. Only then will you begin to understand his or her point of view. And if your neighbour is reluctant to speak about the issue(s), ask questions to elicit some commentary.
  1. Confirm your understanding
  • You can paraphrase main points he or she makes both   to make sure you understand correctly, and to let your neighbour know that you are truly listening.
  1. Identify and acknowledge some common ground
  • This can be challenging. But dig. It’s worth the sense of connection you can achieve. Maybe you both like dogs. Or you both have family in the same city. Or you attended the same university. Possibilities are endless.
  1. Discuss specifics, not generalizations
  • Don’t beat around the bush. The more specific your message, the less chance there will be of assumptions being made. Assumptions made by either your neighbour or you prevent genuine communication.
  1. Keep a conciliatory attitude
  • To prevent your neighbour from feeling accused, it’s paramount that you genuinely feel calm, civil, and wanting to get to know your neighbour and make amends.
  1. Record everything in a journal
  • Write down all dialogue between you, actions you both or either one of you take, and actions you only observe. Because you never know. Don’t let anything slip by unrecorded.
  1. If all else fails, try mediation
  • Mediators are professionals trained to solve disputes. 80% of mediations end in resolutions between the two parties. 

Hopefully it won’t come to this. But if it does, remember to be calm and conciliatory.

Here’s what to expect:

The mediator will communicate with each of you individually first, to hear your respective views. Then a meeting will take place between the three of you.

The mediator will set ground rules in advance to make sure you and your neighbour both hear each other out.

Finally the mediator will make some suggestions to solve the problem. If you and your neighbour both agree, you’ll sign an agreement and things will move forward.

So what can you do if you can’t resolve the conflict by talking to your neighbour? You can look online for mediation in your community. You may find a free community mediation service, or you may have to pay for the service.

You can also call me. I would be more than happy to talk to you about the options available in your community. 416-834-3688

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