Dealing with Nosy Neighbors

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, chances are you’ve encountered a nosy neighbor. You know the type—always fishing for details about your personal life, snooping around, leaving passive-aggressive notes about minor issues, and reporting every little “suspicious” sign (a package left at your door, a friend’s car in the driveway) as a security precaution. This person may mean well, but their antics can cause us stress in the sanctuary of our home.

The question is, how do you deal with it? While it can be tempting to lash out at the nuisance and tell him or her to mind their own business, the fact of the matter is that a) this will likely antagonize them even more, and b) you have to live next to this person. It’s in your best interest to keep relations calm while at the same time setting some boundaries.

Instead, try these tips:

-Don’t get angry. If you catch a neighbor snooping around, the best thing to do is remain calm and nonchalant, like you have nothing to hide. They’ll probably be so embarrassed about being caught in the act that they’ll stop. But baiting them or getting upset may only make them more suspicious of you, giving them more incentive to nose around in your business. If a neighbor leaves a nasty note, calmly visit them and ask to discuss the issue in person. When people hide behind notes the situation can often escalate.

-“Protect” yourself. Build some privacy by setting up a fence, or installing security lights that are guided by a motion sensor. Always lock your doors and windows, as well as any sheds on your property. And if you think your neighbor might be going through your trash, keep the bins in your garage, latch them up, or, if all else fails, throw some wet dog food inside to thwart them!

-Kill them with kindness. Unfortunately there’ very little you can to do stop someone from judging you or gossiping about your private life. But generally people gossip about people they don’t like. The best approach? Be friendly, and offer to lend a hand (such as picking up mail while they’re away) once in a while. They’ll soon see that you’re not the alcoholic/hussy/criminal they envisioned and will think twice about spreading rumors.

-Understand the difference between “harmless” and “dangerous” snooping. While nosy neighbors can be annoying, they’re often harmless people who perhaps have a little too much free time on their hands. Some people have nothing better to do than look out for the postman, or take their “Neighborhood Watch” role a little too seriously. But if you feel that your neighbor is seriously violating your privacy—such as a Peeping Tom or someone who might be going through your garbage in order to steal your financial details—you should take action. If you are convinced your neighbor is doing something of a criminal nature, take it up with your neighborhood association or building manager. However, be aware that this can make for a tense environment, so try to get proof of their wrongdoing prior to making a harsh accusation.

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