An Expert-Approved Guide to Respectfully Communicating with Noisy Neighbors
Most of us consider our homes to be a peaceful oasis away from the outside world—that is, until the outside world gets a little too noisy. Loud neighbors, for example, are a common nuisance, especially if you live in an apartment complex or suburban neighborhood with side-by-side properties. Regardless of the type of noise (music, late-night gathering hullabaloo, early-morning exercise sounds), it's important to get it under control for peace of mind. Confronting this situation, however, should be handled delicately. That's why we tapped an etiquette expert, who shared her best advice for communicating with your neighbors. Armed with her tips, you will be on your way to a (quiet) resolution in no time.
Approach your neighbor in person.
Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert and the founder of the Swann School of Protocol, advises communicating a noise complaint in person. This is best, since a written note can easily be misconstrued; speaking to someone vis-à-vis can make the conversation feel less harsh. It might seem even more awkward to connect this way if you haven't yet met, but it's still a must-do. Start your conversation by introducing yourself (share your name and affirm that you're a fellow neighbor). Swann explains that this will help set the tone for your chat, overall.
"With that being said, approach the neighbor and let them know about the noise," she says. "One of the things I say in my book, Let Crazy Be Crazy: Then Politely Get What You Want, Get Your Point Across, and Gently Put Rude People in Their Place ($19.95, amazon.com), is when you are wanting to confront someone about something, leave out the icky and keep it matter of fact." In short, keep the conversation brief and to the point. Avoid bringing up everything that irks you about the noise and just stick to the reality of the situation. "So, if it's very factual (for example, their dog is making noise), just stick to exactly what that is and communicate it very succinctly: 'When you do this, I can hear the noise,'" adds Swann.
Offer a solution.
Once you've addressed the problem, share a solution. This might involve simply asking them to adjust the noise level during that time (perhaps you have a napping baby) or ask if it's possible to eliminate it altogether. After having this talk, be sure to share your contact information to keep the line of communication open. "If the person is practicing music, say, 'Hey, it's great that you're talented, and great that you're learning, but if you ever aren't quite sure about the noise factor, here's my contact information. Call me anytime and I'll let you know,'" Swann suggests. "This way, the person will feel as though they are connected with you. They'll know where you live and how to reach you."
Humanize the situation.
If you are still struggling with the thought of addressing a noisy neighbor, put yourself in their shoes. "When approaching the person, think about how you might feel—this is what really helps us to craft our statement to them," Swann explains, adding that this can also help you understand your reaction to someone telling you that you are bothering them. "When we think from that perspective, then we won't go to anger. Our goal is to dwell together in peace." Go in hot, and that tranquility becomes disrupted easily, especially if the neighbor feels like they are being wrongfully accused.
Check out neighborhood guidelines.
Sometimes, communities have guidelines in place that can ease this conversation. "A particular neighborhood may have some sort of ordinance for noise after a certain number of hours or perhaps a parking situation. There may be rules to follow, and if that's the case, you can point out those guidelines as part of your conversation," says Swann.
Don't approach your neighbor with a group of people.
If you are going to a neighbor's home, never round up a group of people to get the point across. Doing so could make things hostile if it seems like the neighborhood is rallying against a single person or household. Simply go alone to have the conversation, notes Swann.
Take further steps only when necessary.
Let's say your neighbor denies or ignores your request. Then and only then, says Swann, is it appropriate to take another step. Your homeowners' association or local officials might be helpful, but take caution: Involving a third party virtually guarantees tension; she recommends standing firm, but remaining respectful. "Be cordial towards them—show them exactly how you want to dwell with them," Swann suggests. "When you see them later on, they may be upset—but say hello. If they don't respond right away, or it's a rough sort of hello, just continue with those pleasantries. Show neighborly kindness towards one another until things soften." In the event that they don't soften, "continue to do the right thing," she adds. "Keep depositing cordial behavior towards that person and, eventually, you will get it back."