I’m having difficulty talking to a neighbour
consider whether you need to apologise or at least acknowledge past disagreements
stick to discussing the issue at hand
try not to be too emotional
don’t take things personally
don’t react negatively if they are not friendly
stay focussed and positive so you can reach an agreement with them
Get help or write a letter
If you’re anxious about talking to a difficult neighbour it can be helpful to take someone else with you. A good option is to ask another neighbour who may have suggestions about how best to approach the person you are having trouble talking to.
Another option is to write your neighbour a letter explaining the problem in easily understood language. However, be careful to set a friendly tone in your letter. Sometimes written communication can seem abrupt or too formal.
My neighbour ignores me
If you’ve tried talking to your neighbour in the past and they’ve ignored you, don’t be put off after the first attempt. There may be a good reason why they've ignored you and it’s important to find out what the reason is.
Make sure your neighbour is the right person to talk to
Depending on the problem you’re having, you may need to talk to someone other than your neighbour. If your neighbour is renting, you may need to talk to the owner.
For example, if the issue relates to a fence, then this is the owner’s responsibility. If the issue is to do with noise, then you can discuss it with the neighbour who is making the noise. To find out who the owner is, either ask the tenant or contact your local Council.
Consider your neighbour’s point of view
Your neighbour may have other reasons for ignoring you. Before getting angry, try to understand their point of view, as there may be issues you’re not aware of.
- it might be bad timing for them
- they may be unsure about you or lacking in confidence
- they may speak another language
- they might be worried they can’t afford to fix the problem
Tip: If your neighbour’s upset, try and find out what’s bothering them. It’s important to be clear about their concerns so you work together to solve the problem.
I don’t speak my neighbour’s language
If you and your neighbour don’t speak the same language it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate. Remember that different cultures have different ways of approaching communication and negotiations. You may need to persevere and try different communication styles in order to reach agreement.
Enlist the help of a third party:
- a son or daughter of the neighbour may speak your language – you could approach them first and ask them to pass on a message or ask them to translate
- there may be someone else in the neighbourhood who can help translate
- contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria – they can use an interpreter (this is a free service)
Tip: Try communicating in writing. Put a note in their letterbox – a family member or friend may be able to read it to them.
Other useful organisations
There are community organisations that may be able to assist you with an interpreter or with more advice on how to communicate with a neighbour who does not speak your language.
Contact your local community information centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or Neighbourhood House. A directory for these organisations is available at the websites below.
Association of Neighbourhood Houses and Learning Centres
Community Information Victoria