Battling coronavirus has required something that our country isn’t always very good at and hasn’t done the greatest job of in the present: coming together. Any effort is only as good as the amount of people who get behind it, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But we know one thing, which is that whatever people feel about this pandemic, they feel strongly, which can cause a lot of conflict when those in close proximity feel differently. Beyond disagreeing with those in your direct household about what’s safe and right at this historic moment, there can be a lot of drama when you don’t agree with your neighbor’s behaviors. And neighborhoods are suffering. They’re fighting about residents hosting group gatherings, they’re quarreling about what the rules of engagement should be to keep everyone safe, and even the notorious neighborly Nextdoor app is under a bit of fire.
Neighborly tensions can run high during normal times, but they can be especially bad now when the stakes are high and when everyone is home, all day, every day. You may find yourself arguing with neighbors to whom you’ve peacefully lived next door for years. You may find all of the relocating that was spurred by the pandemic has brought in new, less-than-desirable neighbors. But you can’t just pick unfiltered fights. You have to see these people every day. So we spoke to conflict resolution expert Damali Peterman (pictured below) about how to handle difficult neighbors right now.
Think before approaching
Even though your emotions may be running high when this neighbor is blasting music or hosting a loud party again, Peterman suggests considering some things before knocking on their door and giving them a piece of your mind. “Before engaging in any negotiation with a neighbor, there are many things to consider, she says. “Top of the list for me are four questions that you should ask yourself: 1) Do you have all of the information? 2) What are your options? 3) Where is the right place? 4) When is the right time? These questions are designed to prepare you for the conversation.”
What if they could retaliate?
Getting into some beef with a neighbor can be quite nerve-wracking because they definitely know where you live. That can be a problem if you’re dealing with the type of person who might retaliate. Peterman says, “If you believe that the neighbor is the type to retaliate or could be dangerous, you may have to consider whether you are the right person to have the conversation with them. Is there a neutral third party that could intervene or help? Many neighborhoods have community dispute resolution centers that offer free or low-cost mediation services to help neighbors and other people in conflict discuss their issues with a trained mediator.”