Bitter disputes between neighbors often end up in court. In order not to let conflicts escalate in the first place, you should strike the right tone.
Mrs. Maier plays the piano late in the evening, Mr. Färber always stuffs the garbage cans too full and the cherry tree slowly grows over the property line in the Kruse family.
Neighbors don't always behave the way you would like them to. But when do you talk about that? As early as possible, advises Katharina Roth. She is the managing director of the "nebenan.de" foundation and knows the big and small problems of living together. In an interview, she explains how these can be dealt with peacefully.
In your opinion, what is the right reaction when someone is angry about the neighbor's behavior?
Katharina Roth: I advise turning off negative thinking as a first step and asking yourself: Why is that bothering me at the moment? And why is the neighbor behaving like this? In this way, one deals with the motives of the other and questions the motives. Neighbors can then talk to each other on a whole different level without attacking each other personally.
Ultimately, everyone has their needs and, unlike friends and work colleagues, everyday life may be different. This can be the family with children, the partying student flat share or the neighbor who works in shifts. It can quickly happen that neighbors clash.
In principle, everyone should be able to live their everyday lives the way they want to. So if the neighbor's behavior is disturbing, I advise those affected to gather all the courage and address the problem at an early stage. Many hesitate because of uncertainty as to how the person could react. As a result, however, negative feelings accumulate and do not disappear into thin air of their own accord.
How should conversations proceed without escalating in a dispute?
Anyone who addresses problems should argue objectively and send I-messages. If it's annoying that the neighbor is still playing the piano late at night, those affected should explain why they feel disturbed - for example because they have to get up early. I don't recommend starting a conversation with accusations.
In any case, it should be personal. It can be helpful to spot the neighbor down the hall or at the front door and give them a heads-up by saying, "There's something I'd like to talk to you about. Do you have a moment?" If that's not possible, put a note in the mailbox and ask for an interview.
And if none of the well-intentioned conversations change the conflict situation?
The best thing to do is to contact other neighbors and discuss whether they also find the behavior disturbing. Neighbors can also inform the property management if the personal conversation went nowhere, or look for a mediator. It can often help to seek solutions to the conflict with a third party.
(This article was first published on Sunday, May 29, 2022.)