The reality is, working with your neighbors can be hard at times, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the neighborhood changes, and so do your challenges. These types of conflicts are probably what motivated the quote, “Great fences make great neighbors.” In the end, no matter how big your fences are, you’ll eventually still need to deal with your neighbors, so here are three principles guaranteed to improve the relationships you’re getting with your neighbors.
Suspend Your Certainty
The idea of “Suspending” is where we remain open and humble enough to realize that no matter how offensive the actions of our neighbor may seem toward us, we don’t have to “react” to their actions. Suspending means that we can actually choose to “suspend” our most “natural” reactions, thoughts or responses that may have been stirred inside us by the actions of our neighbor and instead we can choose to respond to our higher values desires and principles. For example, if we are able to suspend and not react to our neighbor driving on our lawn, or “yelling” at our children, or having the party go too late; we too can avoid certain negative relationship breakdowns. By suspending our certainty we not only ensure that we won’t end up in a reactive cycle with our neighbors but instead in our intentional moments of uncertainty we may also be able to glean even more information that could help us to better understand, better negotiate or more effectively influence our neighbors. Suspending doesn’t mean we never deal with the issues at hand either, it just means we make a conscious choice to deal with them at the best time, in the best way, and with a clear head. When it comes to relationships, whoever is the least “reactive” has the greatest advantage.
Get Into Them
Once we stop feeling “certain” that we know all we need to know about our neighbors, now we can begin to truly get into others. “Truly getting into your neighbors”, means you try to know who they really are. You would try to understand their likes, and dislikes, their pet peeves, their hobbies, their occupation, their goals, dreams and desires. Now obviously there is no possible way to know all of these things about every one of your neighbors, right? No matter how true that is, the real point here is that in the relationships where you have “Gotten into them” you inevitably have a healthier relationship and a better ability to influence the relationship for good. There is inherent power in understanding other human beings. One of the greatest benefits of understanding another human being is that they begin to know you understand them because of how you treat them. Because you know their favorite hobbies and goals in life you can bring them up in conversations and that communicates that you are “truly into them!” When someone feels that you understand them, they are much more willing to trust you and in the end they will want to work harder to build trust with you. One of my favorite quotes is that “You can’t meet a need you don’t understand” the same quote seems to fit our discussion about neighbors nicely as well. “You can’t positively influence a person you don’t understand.”
So use your character to begin to understand the ins and outs of your neighbors. Figure out why they don’t wave when they drive by you, or why they mow their lawn twice a week, instead of every other week like you do. And use your skills developed in the first section to “suspend” and not take offense as quickly.
Nothing builds relationships more than service. The service of your neighbor in the end is of much less benefit to them than it is to you. Maybe you could take your neighbors a plate of cookies or shovel their walks when you’re done with yours. Maybe you and your family could run over and help the neighbor finish washing their car, or weed their garden or offer to tend their children. The opportunities to serve your neighbors are endless and all of the ideas of how, what and when to serve them will come by living the earlier principles of “Suspending Certainty” and “Truly Getting Into Them.” Notice the principle of service brings people closer together whether you are the one doing the serving or the one being served. So another way you can serve your neighbor might be by letting them serve you first. For example, “If you know that they are a really good carpenter who finished their basement and it turned out beautifully, maybe before you go and put in new closet doors you could go over and ask your neighbor for some advice. Take him or her a specific question that you’re sure they will be able to answer because of their expertise. They will probably be flattered at first and then may be prompted to either come help you with the project or will at least create an opportunity for another conversation in the future. The act of serving one another helps to show we actually care—as in: “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care.” By serving one another, we end up opening the door to having more influence with one another.
Think of some relationships where you need to suspend your certainty. What would be the greatest advantage to suspending, with those people? Try suspending! Quit judging others so quickly and try to remain open to learning more about them.
Spend the next week trying to actively learn more about your neighbor. Try to remember the names of their children or bring up some information you just learned about their new hobbies. Or simply go over and start a conversation and see where it goes from there?
Take an opportunity in the next few days to go and serve one of your neighbors their way. Use your past conversations to identify an opportunity to serve in the moment—spontaneously, selflessly.
Matt Townsend is a national speaker and relationship expert who uses his unique gift of understanding relationships to help individuals, couples and families learn the skills they need to better relate.
Through entertainment and humor he teaches life-changing principles and skills empowering couples to change by learning to communicate more effectively, to stop patterns of negative reactions, and to get to the heart of important issues.
For more couple advice from Matt, attend:
Date Night with Matt Townsend
TOPIC: “Getting on the Same Page: From Hobbies to Hunting”
Friday, July 30
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
$35 per couple
Location: Noahs in South Jordan
To register call 801-747-2121