What Neighbors Say: Learning to Live Without Conflict

Есть проблема: беспорядок на кухонной столешнице

From the editorial board: many people across Russia are forced to go into self-isolation and continue to work from home. In conditions when almost 24 hours a day you are within four walls, even those things that you previously simply did not pay attention to begin to irritate. What can we say about restless neighbors! Take your time to sign up for an online psychological survival course in an apartment building – perhaps our tips will help you. We first published this article in 2015 and we suggest you reread it now – it is more relevant than ever

Avenue 23 Media

The times when each family maintained close ties with neighbors are irrevocably gone for most of us. Now we often do not even know who exactly lives in the next apartment. And if our grandmothers fondly recalled how it was easy to drop in to a neighbor for tea or ask her to look after the children, today the question “how to avoid a conflict with neighbors” is often relevant for us. I’ll try to explain why this is happening.

In a metropolis, we live with strangers almost side by side. And this is not a figure of speech: your bed and your neighbor’s bed may well be separated by just a thin wall! We constantly bump into neighbors in the elevator, hear sounds coming from them and not always pleasant smells …

Elena Igumnova

Of course, there are pluses in being familiar with your neighbors: it can be both support in difficult times, and mutual assistance. After all, it’s much more enjoyable to live with people you know. However, there are also downsides. Very often, neighbors become a constant source of stress and intrusion into your life. It is not surprising that conflicts arise on such “fertile” soil.

I have already talked about what personal and public space is and how we react if it is violated. When we talk about neighbors, in addition to personal space, we can touch upon the issue of borders.

Personal space: How many meters do you need to be happy

Classic Interior Atelier

What are you complaining about?
More often than not, complaints about neighbors boil down to one of these three points.

  1. Too much noise or noise at the wrong time: it can be frolicking children, barking dogs, clattering heels, loud music, renovations, noise at night, etc.
  2. Too many visitors: guests walk back and forth under the windows or near the elevator: more noise, smoking, garbage.
  3. Different values: For example, you think you can put a garbage bag out the door, and your neighbor is annoyed. Or a neighbor smokes on the stairs and is absolutely not going to reckon with the law, your requests, reasons and arguments.
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In all such episodes, we can safely say that you consider your boundaries violated, and interests infringed. How can you calm yourself down and try to solve this problem?

Fotograf Camilla Stephan

How not to “break the wood” in the heat of the moment?
The first thing to do, as soon as you find a surge of anger and irritation at a neighbor who again smokes, walks or sings (write down the appropriate meaning), is to calm down. And until then, do not rush to deal with your neighbor, because this will definitely not lead to anything good – even if you are a hundred times right.

Try special techniques to calm yourself down.


  • Take four inhalations and four exhalations, but the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. In other words, breathe in normally and exhale much more slowly. Count the number of breaths to yourself.
  • Make contact with water: you can wash your hands, rinse the cup, just turn on the running water from the tap or drink a glass of water.
  • Name the emotion that overwhelms you aloud – for example, “I’m just angry. I’m furious, I’m just shaking all over with evil. ” Sometimes verbalizing an emotion helps to reduce its intensity.
  • Imagine yourself and your neighbor in the form of a caricature or a comic: a disgusting old man crumpled on the floor, and you, in a Batman costume about two meters tall, solemnly raise your hands in the pose of a victorious one (or something like that, equally life-affirming).

You may well allow yourself to be in emotion for a while and even seem to enjoy it. The main thing is to distract from the impulsive desire to run at this moment to the neighbor. And after you have coped with the initial influx of negative feelings, it is time to move on to the analysis.

Design Studio of Maria Borovskaya

Understand your rights
Is a neighbor breaking the law by smoking in the stairwell or playing loud music in the middle of the night? The neighbors have forced the common hall with old furniture and, it seems, are not going to get rid of it? Or does a neighbor on the floor above prefer to walk around the room in heels, and her children, apparently, are left to themselves all day?

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Consider whether the neighbors are breaking the law or just your notions of comfort. Agree that your neighbor has every right to watch a movie in the evenings, and he is completely innocent of the fact that the walls in your house are thin as a sheet of paper. Another thing is to hang the shelves with a drill early on Sunday morning.


In any case, before contacting the police or the management company with a complaint, you need to talk to the troublemaker himself. If you are uncomfortable doing this face-to-face, you can always write a letter and put it in the mailbox, or ask the concierge or the senior at the entrance (if there is one) to speak for you.

If you are determined to go into an unpleasant conversation on your own, then the recommendations below will come in handy.

Steve Davies Photography

Unpleasant conversation within the bounds of decency
1. Determine your position: what do you want specifically. Formulate your problem as simply as possible. “I want my neighbor not to do this or that,” is the wrong wording. You have no right to control other people. Correct example: “I want to sleep in silence” or “I do not want to breathe smoke.”

2. Evaluate how your desire can be supported or governed by any rules. Even if there is nothing on this topic in the laws, there are always some common norms. Remember: a clearly formulated rule is your trump card and lifebuoy.

3. Think about the compromises you are willing to make. It is very likely that your neighbor will not agree to immediately and irrevocably correct his behavior, because if he is doing this now, most likely he has his own reasons.

Of course, he may simply not understand what makes someone uncomfortable. But it may turn out that he simply cannot do anything. For example, a neighbor knows that his dog is constantly barking when he just walks out the door. But how to wean her from this – she has no idea.

Ekaterina Lieberman

4. Remember that you personally, Ivan Ivanovich, have no complaints against the possibly good man Pyotr Petrovich, your neighbor. In other circumstances, you might have become friends. But at the moment, all you want to do is share your desires with him and ask him to meet you halfway. This is not a conflict. It’s just protecting your borders and constructively trying to share a common space.

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5. If the conversation still takes an aggressive character, remember about the “trump card and lifebuoy.” Ignore any emotional arguments from your neighbor and repeat your rule over and over again: “I understand your circumstances, but there are rules …”, “Despite this, there is still a rule that …”

Don’t be afraid to look stupid: on the contrary, this tactic will allow you to “not get turned on” in response to the emotions of your neighbor. He will not be able to take you away from the conversation, or “surrender” under pressure. A rule is a rule, you can’t argue with it whether you like it or not.

Interior design studio Polaris Design

Peace to the world
It is still better to maintain distant but friendly relations with neighbors. Be sure to say hello to each other. Do not turn away if you accidentally bump into a bus stop. Offer a little help on occasion – for example, help an elderly neighbor carry a bag from the store if you meet there by chance, or hold the front door for a mom with a pram – don’t wait to be asked.

Throwing a party for the neighbors is sometimes great and funny. For this, however, you need a lot of courage and spontaneity, but if you are not the only organizer, then why not! It works especially well in the country or in sparsely populated areas.

Jeffrey erb

Find your neighbors on social media and in reality. Usually there is something like a regional forum where the most active residents communicate. There you can also find out about ongoing meetings or other community initiatives in which you might want to take part.

In a word, it is up to you to be friends with your neighbors or keep yourself apart. But still, we are all human, and it often happens that even a very serious, as you thought, problem is solved by a simple and friendly (or neutral) conversation. Try it!

Jordi Folch

Tell us how you find a common language with your neighbors. What ways have you found to wait out the quarantine in peace and tranquility?

This is archival material. First published 2015, updated 2020

About Leona Smith 115 Articles
Hello! My name is Silke and this is my travel blog. I want to show you fascinating places off the beaten track, give you a gentle introduction to history and culture, and help you get around Berlin. After 13 years in Sydney and Andalusia, I now live in Berlin, Germany. I am a travel writer, translator and book author. Read more about me here.

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