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You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbors. Difficult neighbors can get under your skin because you have nowhere to escape. “Choose your battles wisely,” says F. Richard Blue, a psychologist with a private practice in Atlanta. “Your ultimate goal is to solve the problem rather than get angry.” Try these expert solutions to the most common complaints to keep your neighborhood from becoming a battleground.
Borrowing. It’s one thing for a neighbor to ask for a cup of sugar; it’s another to borrow a drill indefinitely. “Try saying something like, ‘I know you forgot, but I really need my drill back,’” says Susan Newman, psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever. If she’s a habitual non-returner, the next time she asks for something tell her you’re not comfortable lending that item. “Essentially you’re saying no, but you’re saying it nicely,” Newman says.
Messy yard. You landscape your lawn while your neighbor’s looks like a jungle. Try something like, “I’m having guests over this weekend and wondered if you could mow your grass.” “Your neighbor will get the message,” says Newman. If you discover that your neighbor is sick or a single parent working three jobs and simply can’t keep up, you might volunteer to help mow. “However, if your neighbor is simply lazy, understand that you can’t change people and it’s their problem, not yours.” says Newman.
Noisy neighbors. Whether it’s a barking dog or a blasting stereo, it’s within your rights to ask them to keep it down. Ask for what you want changed, such as, “It would be great if you could turn down the music after 9 p.m.” If the noise continues, try sending them a note stating you’ll be forced to file a complaint if the noise doesn’t stop. Your last resort is to call the authorities. “Unfortunately, you may need help because you can’t always resolve problems on your own,” says Blue.