7 Low-Pressure Ways to Friend your Neighbors
You have neighbors, but do you know your neighbors? I have some non-intimidating ways to make connections and get to know the people closest to you. You’ll be so glad you did!
Over the years and houses, we’ve been blessed to have amazing neighbors and even those who’ve become lifelong friends. Now, we’ve also had our share of more difficult neighborships too, so I’m not saying it’s always easy, but making the effort is always worth it in the end. Here are seven fail-safe ways to start fostering friendships in your neighborhood in real life.
It’s Never too Late
Let’s preface these tips with one rule to rule them all: The good ol’ Golden Rule. Because if you want good neighbors, you gotta first be a good neighbor yourself. Maybe your neighbors didn’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon, but it’s never too late to start a new chapter. New neighbors or old ones, you haven’t missed your chance. Even if you can’t remember that lady’s name who has lived across the street for 40 years…
1. Wave and say, “Hello”.
Get back to the basics. If you’re within talking distance, a quick greeting will go a long way. Yeah, you’re probably going to talk about the weather at first, but eventually those conversations will grow. Everyone likes a compliment – whether it’s on their new car or a perfectly manicured rose bush, shower them in love and take an interest in what they like. If you’re farther away, at least a wave and smile. 🙂
2. Walk your ‘hood (sans earbuds)
Not only does walking outdoors do wonders for your mood and health, you’ll probably pick up on details and happenings around your ‘hood. Garage sales, new construction, new neighbors, etc. Which are all awesome conversation starters when you cross paths with…wait for it… other humans on your walk. If they seem like they’re training for a marathon, maybe don’t chat them up, but if they seem approachable, a wave and smile will do. Maybe even, “I’ve seen you walking this path a lot, have you lived here long?” You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.
Three easy letters: B B Q. Fire up those grills and let the sweet scents of charcoal waft through the air for all to smell. Like a beacon of bacon. Another pro conversation starter — “Mmm, smells good over there. What’s for dinner?” Fishing for an invite? Hey, no shame in that game as long as you invite them over too. We love having impromptu dinners with our neighbors. Everyone brings something to share and we make an al fresco dinner with whatever we have on-hand. Break out the yard games or stay out on the patio and chat it up until the sun sets.
4. Start a War
A goods deed war, that is. I think this is also a great tip for marriages that I heard somewhere. Instead of keeping score against each other (your tree is hanging over my fence, you leave your trash out, oh that’s another strike), try seeing who can be the most helpful. Snowblow your neighbors’ driveways without being asked. Many people actually compete to get to this first, as a little friendly competition and pay-it-forward mentality. Or volunteer to dogsit if your neighbor mentions an upcoming vacation. Mow their law or take in their packages if you’re in a sketchy apartment building. Obviously, some of these are dependent on your location, but the point is to be on the lookout for ways to be a do-gooder and day maker.
5. Baked Goods
My personal favorite! Nothing like some homemade fill in the blank. Cookies and brownies always win hearts. Since you may not know your neighbors’ dietary restrictions (like a peanut allergy. Not the best way to start a friendship…), include a little note card with the recipe. How cute, right? I have for real dragged Joe door-to-door like a couple of girl scouts handing out tins of cookies. Christmas and Valentine’s Day are perfect opportunities, but you’ve also got St. Patrick’s Day and May Day and the other 371 “just because” days of the year. I love baking, but maybe for you it’s your dad’s famous lasagna recipe or uncle’s jerky or grandma’s salsa that must be shared. Cooking just not your thing? But you have a killer herb garden or an explosion of tomatoes that you can leave on your neighbor’s doorknob. You make Christmas ornaments or you build bird feeders or knit scarves. Leaving nice surprises in their mailbox amongst the bills is guaranteed to bring joy, and you’ll be sharing your talents in the process.
I’m not just talking about borrowing an egg or cup of sugar (although I’ve totally done that in a pinch) but tapping your community for resources. Asking for help is one of the fastest ways to bond, and your neighbors will likely feel horoned that you’ve asked them! (Interesting study about this Ben Franklin Effect). It’s so tempting, I know, to order everything we need on Amazon Prime, but pause first and think about borrowing instead. If it’s something you can use communally, like a curtain steamer, power washer or tile saw it doesn’t hurt to ask around. Be respectful and return said thing in a reasonable timeframe and in good or better condition. Obviously if you’re precious about something, use your best discretion when lending it out. But at the end of the day, people are more important than things. Not to mention cutting down on waste and clutter when borrowing instead of buying everything we may only use once a year.
7. Online is Fine
Alright, I know what you’re thinking… What about adding your neighbors online? I think it’s fine, but want to urge you to make these other efforts before jumping right into Facebook friending your neighbors. I’m assuming you’re reading this because you’re after real connections with people and that only happens in real life. Don’t let someone’s online persona cloud your first impression of them before you’re truly spent the time getting to know them. I have really enjoyed being involved in my Nextdoor App and staying connected to my community there. Facebook garage sale sites and neighborhood groups can be wonderful uniters. Follow your local Chamber of Commerce, newspaper, schools, community centers and other relevant associations to get plugged in. Then get out there and connect with your people!
Neighbors in Different Life Stages
I think having children the same age can be a huge blessing and natural ice breaker. We don’t have kids or dogs, so we’ve employed these creative strategies and had great luck with people of all ages. Just because you don’t see yourself becoming best friends with a neighbor who seems like your complete opposite, don’t write them off. You’d be surprised at what you have in common and just how much you can learn from them.
I hope one or more of these tips have inspired you into action. Much like volunteering, you’ll feel really good afterward. And get that nagging, “I should really know my neighbors better” feeling off your chest. Afterall, these people will be the first responders in a crisis and have your back. It’s so nice to have the support system of your neighbors at the end of the day, and I know you will be glad you’ve made the connections.