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Six Habits of Good Next Door Neighbors

MsDora, former teacher and Certified Christian Counselor shares tips for smooth relationships with friends and for encounters with strangers

What happened to the friendly habits which used to be common among next-door neighbors? Think about habits like sharing tomatoes from the backyard garden, borrowing the hammer and lending the wrenches so that no one person had to buy all the tools.

According to a 2013 survey, 56% of participants agreed that they interact very little with their neighbors. A full 72% of them admitted that growing up, they knew their neighbors better than they do now.

Most still believe that interaction between neighbors creates a happier neighborhood; that it makes the community safer and stronger; that a strong and safe neighborhood facilitates good health and well-being. We can bring back that happy neighborhood, beginning with personal effort to become good next door neighbors.

Following are some proven habits which form the foundation for interaction between good neighbors living side by side. Eventually, the habits may spread to neighbors living on the same street, and to residents in the same subdivision.

I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

— Mother Teresa

1. Communication

Is it possible to be at home, needing some immediate help which your cell phone friends are too far away to provide? Do you know your neighbor’s phone number? Communication between neighbors has its benefits.

Good neighbors communicate with each other on the front lawn, across the fence or during intentional visits to get acquainted. They know where the adults work and where the children go to school.

Knowing the residents of the house makes it easy to spot trespassers. The individual who lives alone may benefit from the neighbor’s awareness that his car is still in the garage on a workday when he should have left for work two hours earlier. Good neighbors give and request information, not to be nosy, but to be helpful.

Some Good and Bad Neighborly Habits

The lists are extracted from the 2013 State of the American Neighborhood Study, conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,021 participants, on behalf of Nextdoor- a social network for neighborhoods.

Good Neighborly HabitsBad Neighborly Habits


Excessive noise

Respect for personal space and boundaries

Disrespect for the neighbors’ personal space or boundaries

Proper maintenance of yard and property

Neglect of yard and property; no control of dogs

Willingness to help out neighbors in times of crisis and natural disasters

Driving too fast through the neighborhood

Good Fence, Good Neighbors.

Good Fence, Good Neighbors.

A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn't climb over it.

— Arthur Baer

2. Caution

It is necessary for good neighbors to be friendly but not to become bosom friends. Exchanging phone numbers is no authorization for daily conversations, emotional downloads or interrogations on social and political affiliations. What makes the association pleasant is the mutual observance of the imaginary No Trespassing sign on everyone’s privacy.

Respect for physical boundaries also contributes to the favorable atmosphere. Just because neighbors talk across the fence does not mean that they should walk through at will. If the reason for sneaking up on neighbors is to discover some clandestine activity, better judgment suggests contacting a private eye. Seriously!

Typical Profile of a Neighborly Person

According to the State of the American Neighborhood Report, the typical profile of a "neighborly person" possesses these characteristics:

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  • Parent
  • Married
  • Age 45 or older
  • Homeowner
  • Front porch owner
  • Dog owner
  • Regular neighborhood walker
  • Social media user at least once a day

Love your neighbor as yourself.

— The Bible

3. Civility

Good neighbors are gracious to each other. They greet each other cheerily, judging whether there is time for conversation about the weather, or just enough time to say “Have a nice day.” Compliments are in place; so are non-threatening inquiries about obvious issues like the job, the children, the vegetable garden, the health of the family in flu season.

The best rule of civility is to treat the other neighbor with the same love and admiration the giver will like to receive. Similarly, the children are taught to respect the people and the property next door, with the same good manners that they are required to show to their own parents. Children from two or three households can provide peer support against peer pressure from those who incite rudeness.

If everyone sweeps their own doorstep, their own neighbourhoods, the world will be a clean, pure and healthy place for life to prosper.

— Vishwas Chavan

4. Tidiness

Good neighbors are first of all, good people. They mow their lawns, trim their hedges, keep trash off the sidewalk, and freshen up their house paint as expressions of their cleanliness, decency and sense of beauty. They make their surroundings attractive for them.

Meanwhile, they gain admiration from the people next door who may or may not share their commitment to cleanliness; but eventually their habit rubs off on the onlookers who are influenced to do likewise. In the event that those next door are sluggish to pick up the habit, they can be encouraged in careful conversation.

They may be further encouraged by an offer of help. The tidy neighbor tries to spread tidiness as far as he or she could.

Neighbors Working

Neighbors Working

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

— The Bible

5. Credibility

Good neighborly acts come from a genuine heart. Helping the neighbor paint his fence, fell a tree or shovel the snow is not only because it improves conditions for the helper, but also because of an honest desire to help the neighbor be happy in his surroundings. Respect grows when people are genuinely interested in each other.

Neighbors who care are more likely to be honest about who they really are. They are open about what they expect from each other. They offer help and keep their word. Good neighbors can be relied on to watch out for each other. Fear and suspicion give way to trust and support.

Top Five Neighborly Disputes

According to FindLaw, the top five neighborly disputes have to do with these issues:

  • Noise (48% of all disputes)
  • Pets and animals
  • Children's behavior
  • Property appearance
  • Property boundaries

By insisting too eagerly upon a small right, you may turn it into a wrong against yourself and also against your neighbor.

— Lawrence G. Lovasik

6. Compromise

People do not have to be perfect to qualify as good neighbors. There may be reason for dispute including any of the top five reasons reported by a FindLaw survey (see adjacent column). Consideration for the other person is usually a good motive for making adjustments. For example, the offender may prefer to have his dog roam the property but if it makes holes in the fence, a long leash may be an appropriate compromise.

In more serious misunderstandings like property boundaries, good neighbors can remain good neighbors after requesting legal documents from the homeowner’s association or a property lawyer. No one can blame an individual for insisting on his rights. Good neighbors show wisdom in compromising, accepting legal solutions and appreciating peace of mind.

Further Reading

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Dora Weithers

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