So, a few years ago, my hubby and I sold our first house and moved to another part of the Twin Cities metro. Since we weren’t familiar with the area, we chose to rent an apartment in the area while we got to know the neighborhood.
Condensing our 3 bedroom rambler into a small 2 bedroom apartment was a challenge (and fodder for another blogpost), as was getting accustomed to living elbow-to-elbow with lots of folks. Now, my hubby and I are very quiet people. We keep to ourselves and stay out of everybody else’s business. We don’t yell, don’t slam doors or entertain the neighbors with Skynyrd or Eminem thumping through the walls and down the halls.
So you can imagine our surprise and embarrassment when we came home one Saturday afternoon a couple of months after we had moved in and found a three page letter that had been crammed under our door informing us that the anonymous letter writer couldn’t take it anymore and felt compelled to inform us in three… count ‘em…three pages describing how we had ruined her life for the past two months because we had a wind chime hanging on our tiny balcony and she couldn’t sleep! We assume the anonymous letter writer was a woman because of the flowery penmanship and scented stationary.
The wind chime was one of those small ones that you can barely hear when you are sitting on the balcony; therefore, I was stunned to think that anyone else could even hear the wind chime or that it would bother them. Needless to say, the wind chime came down that very afternoon. But for the rest of the time we lived there, I always wondered who had slipped that note under our door. I wanted to personally apologize, but all I felt was shame and embarrassment that I had unknowingly irritated another resident to point of such frustration that she felt she had to “confront” us with a not-so-short story about how our wind chime was keeping her awake. And because of her lack of sleep, her health was suffering and it was impacting her ability to do her job and on and on and on…
At the time, I wondered why this neighbor didn’t feel comfortable just knocking on our door and explaining the problem to us. I would like to think that I would have been sympathetic to her plight, but who knows? Maybe I would have gone Freddy Krueger on her.
It all comes down to communication.
The hubby and I were completely unaware that we were causing another person to suffer. In retrospect, clearly, we shouldn’t have hung up the wind chime. But who knows? Anyone who has ever lived in multi-unit housing has had neighbors who are spoiling to create discord among their fellow apartment dwellers. There’s always somebody who plays their music too loud and everyone in the building can hear it and we’ve all heard raised voices echoing through the hallway.
So, next time you’re thinking that you’re the perfect tenant, rethink your actions: do you make a lot noise? Do you cook foods that make your neighbors lose their appetites because the smell lingers in the hallway for days? Do you have kids that run and jump all over the apartment possibly causing a disturbance to your adjacent neighbors and most certainly to the unlucky folks who live directly below you? Do you and your spouse or roommates have heated discussions that the whole building can hear?
If you do have a problem with one (or more) of your neighbors, be the grown up and go talk to them. I know it’s scary, but sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone, feel the fear and move forward to get the results we need and want.
But before you talk to your neighbor, have a plan: What is the specific concern and what is it that you want to see as the outcome?
Depending on how well you know your neighbor will influence how you approach this situation. If you know them well, and you like each other, great! You already have a solid foundation from which to begin your conversation and it will most likely go well. Congratulations!
If, on the other hand, you don’t know the offending neighbor or if you have had issues with this same neighbor in the past, you will want to tread a tad bit more delicately. Before you knock on their door, think of something nice you can start the conversation with. Invent a compliment. That’s right, you read that correctly: invent a compliment. This may take a few minutes for you to think of something nice to say to someone you are irritated with, but trust me, a compliment disarms people and catches them off-guard. For example, you could talk about how you admire their car, how tastefully they have decorated their deck, or how well they dress. So, once you are armed with your nicety, you can proceed to the actual discussion.
Pick a time of the day you know they are probably home, take a big gulp of air and knock on their door. Lead with your compliment, then casually move the conversation into the real reason you are standing in front of them: gently explain the situation and ask for a specific result. For example, if they play their music too loud, perhaps you could explain that the music is keeping your baby from napping (if it’s remotely true) or you are a shift worker and need to sleep during the day (again, if it’s true), etc. Don’t attack: just explain your problem and ask for some cooperation. Ask them to please turn their music down during certain times of the day or night. Try to seek a compromise. Tell them that normally you don’t mind the music and that you actually like the music (if it is even, somewhere on this planet, sort of true). Ask them if they could do you a favor and please turn the music down. The trick is to not offend your neighbor…you want to de-escalate the situation. Keep your eye on the prize: you want to get the neighbor to comply with your request without putting them on the defensive and cranking their stereo as retaliation. It’s all in the approach. Remember to say please and thank you. Old fashioned? Yes, but effective.
If, after you have tried to work it out amicably with your neighbor and you are still not satisfied, then you may need to speak to the apartment manager. All tenants have a right to enjoyment of their apartment, but achieving that can be a delicate matter that needs to be handled thoughtfully and tactfully to maintain a harmonious existence for all of the tenants.
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