We hope this article and the subsequent book will spark conversations about how easy it is for everyone to practice neighborliness and, in turn, can help build a better neighborhood. Toward that end, we offer the following list of the qualities of a good neighbor sorted into five groups. They are, of course, the qualities of an ideal neighbor. The reality is that none of us are perfect. Yet, these qualities are what each of us can aspire to possess and develop.
As a bonus, note that the qualities apply to other aspects of our lives, not just in neighbor relations. Indeed, they are probably familiar with anyone who has studied how to improve interpersonal relations.
The Friendly Neighbor
- Be kind and approachable to your neighbors even if they do not reciprocate.
- Promptly welcome new neighbors and go out of your way to be friendly.
- Within reason and if you are a new arrival, put up with the peculiarities and conditions of your neighbors and neighborhood, at least for a reasonable period of time. This should allow time to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for any special circumstances and to make good faith efforts to remedy any undesirable situations.
The Decent Neighbor
- Genuinely care about and show concern for your neighbors, even the ones who are not as likable as others.
- Regarding neighborhood matters, first, try to understand the needs and point of view of your neighbors.
- Within reason, be sensitive to that which can make others upset or uncomfortable. When in public, leave any profanity at home, dress appropriately, and avoid scandal while trying to follow the Golden Rule in all things, especially on matters pertaining to the welfare of children, the elderly, and the infirmed.
The Responsible and Reasonable Neighbor
- Be discreetly alert to what’s happening in the neighborhood and be aware of any needs that may arise especially concerning children, the elderly, or the infirmed. Never be nosey or obtrusive.
- Follow all laws and regulations that apply to the property or situation including, if applicable, the homeowners association covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).
- Promptly fulfill all oral and written commitments you make to your neighbors.
- Be considerate, courteous, and tactful to all neighbors while using a civil tone even when others do not reciprocate.
- Use sound judgment in all matters pertaining to your neighbors and neighborhood. When in doubt, exercise great caution before reaching a decision or taking action, ideally in consultation with advisors and neighbors.
- Approach challenges, issues, and problems with the willingness to consider an amicable compromise and agree to proposed decisions and settlements that are reasonable and show good faith efforts to maintain good neighborly relations. Think win-win or, as Stephen R. Covey suggests, “not your way or my way; [but] a better way, a higher way.” (Habit Four, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)
- Unless there is an immediate or imminent threat to life or property, handle any issue or problem directly with neighbors while avoiding gossip and talking behind anyone’s back.
- Set a good example and set high standards knowing that everybody can be a positive role model to young and old alike.
- Take reasonable precautions and store adequate emergency provisions so as to not be an undue burden on your neighbors and emergency response services.
- Be accountable for your actions and inactions that pertain to the common interests of the neighbors and neighborhood, especially those concerning children, the elderly, and the infirmed. This includes promptly notifying the respective property owners and, if need be, the appropriate authorities whenever they should know something of concern.
- Share any important thoughts, concerns, and suggestions at the appropriate time and place.
- Make every reasonable effort to maintain peace and quiet in the neighborhood that can be reasonably expected under the circumstances.
The Considerate and Cooperative Neighbor
- Have the mental and moral strength to exercise sound judgment and do the right thing in all matters pertaining to neighbor relations.
- Participate in neighborhood events and activities.
- Work with your neighbors on resolving issues, discussing ideas, etc. even if the topic is unpleasant, the timing is inconvenient, or you would prefer to be doing just about anything else.
- Carefully if not prayerfully take into account beforehand both the short and long-term implications of actions and inactions while being especially kind and attentive toward those concerning the neighbors and the neighborhood.
- When in doubt regarding matters of importance or perceived importance, the good neighbor errs on the side of caution.
The Neighbor Who Goes Above and Beyond
- Host or co-host neighborhood events.
- Nudge your neighbors to be neighborly.
- Donate time to those in need in the neighborhood.
- Start or get behind neighborhood initiatives.
- Utilize all available resources and assistance to accomplish a task or achieve an objective to include settling any controversy or dispute.
Again, we want to stress that we’re not saying that you must possess all of the above qualities to be a good neighbor. Nor are we suggesting that if you don’t that you are a bad neighbor. On the contrary, polarizing people between bad and good is a fool’s errand since most of us are somewhere in between. Instead, we simply suggest that trying to develop these qualities can be beneficial to you, your neighbors, and the community at-large regardless of whether you live in a small town, a growing mid-level city, or a large metropolitan area.
We look forward to publishing a post on the above qualities which will include examples of how these qualities can be put to good use. We’d welcome comments from you with stories about how you’ve seen one or several of these qualities in action or even about the times when you wished they had been.
We also encourage you to practice neighborliness by sharing this with your neighbors. If they take offense, you can blame us. If they don’t, maybe you can suggest that you’ll see them at the next, or first, ice cream social in your neighborhood. But please don’t send us the empty bowl as proof! We’ll take your word on it.