Direct negotiation with a neighbour
There are several ways to make it more likely that you and whoever you are in dispute with can sort things out – and some that will definitely make matters worse.
This section sets out some ‘do’s and don’ts’ that you may find it helpful to read through and think about before speaking or writing to the other person.
These tips assume there is no threatening behaviour or danger of physical violence. If there is, you should go to the police.
Think about what you want to say
Be clear in your mind about: what the problem is; how it affects you; what you want.
Talk to someone who is not involved, who can help to work these out. You may wish to consult a local Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor; and decide whether it would be better to talk face to face or to write a letter.
If you decide to talk face-to-face, you may find it helpful to write down what you want to say to help you order your thoughts and make sure you cover all the points you want to make.
If your dispute is with a neighbour
- Talk to them face-to-face. This is much better than pushing notes through the door or banging on the wall;
- Try to choose a good time to make the first approach, when neither you nor your neighbour are busy; and
- Arrange a suitable time and place, free as far as possible from distractions, so that you can talk about the problem properly.
Speaking face to face
Be calm and friendly. Say you are glad you have got together to sort things out;
Tell your neighbour what the problem is, how you feel and how it affects you. Express how you feel but without blaming your neighbour. This will help you get your message across.
For example, “When I hear your TV after 11.30 p.m. I can’t get to sleep and I get angry” is much better than “You’re very inconsiderate with your loud TV, keeping me awake all night”
Listen to what your neighbour has to say in return: they have a point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. By listening as well as talking, you help to build a good atmosphere. Problems are often solved when people feel they have been listened to.
Trying to solve the problem
- Look for common ground. Even agreeing to differ is a start;
- Make sure that you bring all the issues into the open. Work on the easier issues first;
- Separate the problem from the person. Approach this as if you and your neighbour are getting together to solve a common problem. Two heads are better than one: be open to your neighbour’s suggestion;
- Try to find a co-operative solution in which both you and your neighbour participate;
- Look at all the options before picking the best one for you both; and
- If you are unable to talk things through amicably with your neighbour, you may wish to try a community mediation service.
When you reach agreement
- Make sure you know who has agreed to do what, and by when. It may be a good idea to write this down, and both sign it and keep a copy.
- Agree a date to check how your agreement is working out
- Agree how you will let each other know about any future problems.
- Interrupt, shout or verbally abuse
- Assume others have the same values as you do
- Assume people are doing things just to annoy you
- Imagine your neighbours know what is really bothering you if you have never told them
- Retaliate: it will make things worse and put you in the wrong
- Argue about exactly who did what – concentrate on what you want to happen in the future
- Bring up things which have nothing to do with the present problem
- Agree to solutions you think are unfair, just for a quiet life.