Dealing with Problems

If you’ve tried talking to your neighbour in the past and they’ve ignored you or become upset, you may feel anxious about approaching them again. If your neighbour doesn’t speak your language, or you don’t get on well, it can be difficult to know how to deal with them.
 
This page outlines some strategies you can use to deal with problems that may arise when talking to a neighbour.
 

I’m having difficulty talking to a neighbour

If you have a problem to be solved you need to take the first step and speak to your neighbour, regardless of your past experience with them. Putting it off will not make it any easier.
 
It is particularly important to focus on the problem, not the person. Before you talk to your neighbour be very clear about what you want them to do or agree to. This will help you focus on the problem, not on their personality or behaviour.
 
When you talk to your 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
www.anhlc.asn.au

Community Information Victoria
www.civ.org.au