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Naughty or Nice: How to Handle Holiday Neighbor Conflict

STOP the music!

STOP the music!

Conflicts with neighbors can be some of the worst disputes you can encounter. With the holidays approaching, family parties, festivities, holiday decorations, loud music and unruly guests who blocked driveways are some of the many things that fuel neighbor conflict. These types of irritations can turn into unexpected arguments and are the start of an unhealthy conflict if not discussed constructively with your neighbors.

For example, your neighbor has family and friends over for a pre-Christmas dinner. Your lights are out and your car is not in the driveway.  A few people from your neighbor’s house are parked along side the street and you are blocked from your driveway entrance. Your neighbor believes it’s okay because he/she thinks you’re out of town for the holidays. However, later that night you arrive home after a long day of last minute holiday shopping you are furious because you cannot get into your driveway and your neighbor has music playing loudly. Your initial reaction is to get out of your car and bang on your neighbors door to give them a piece of your mind. Take a breath to weigh your options.

Often times these disagreements come from unmet expectations and can cause you to react in a not-so neighborly way. In order to productively approach the neighbors, ask yourself some questions before you address the conflict with your neighbor.

  • What exactly is the situation you are upset about?
  • What does your neighbor do or say/not do or not say that irritates you?
  • What do you need? (e.g. quiet time, ability to get in and out of your home)
  • How will you say it and with what kind of tone or attitude?
  • Where will you have this discussion? At your place, your neighbor’s home or at a coffee shop? Wherever it is discussed, remain calm and explain how it is affecting you. Remember, people get defensive when you bring up a conflict or they feel they are being attacked.  

Consider these strategies for how to prevent conflict or manage it with your neighbors.

 1.)   Know your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or apartment rules pertaining to large parties, outside decorations, and parking to prevent receiving a warning notice or having cars towed.

 2.)   Inform your neighbors of an upcoming holiday party.

3.)   Discuss your needs such as parking, loud music and partygoers.  This allows your neighbor and you to discuss potential areas of irritation and to come to an understanding and prevent potential conflict.

 4.)   Never assume that your neighbor knows what he/she is doing is bothersome to you.

 5.)   If you become triggered or irritated by a situation, remain calm and practice what and how you will approach your neighbor. Be clear about how the situation is impacting you and what you need.

 6.)   If a neighbor has been difficult in the past or communication is not effective consider other options such as mediation.

 To learn more about how to prevent and deal with nuisance neighbors, visit Conflict with Neighbors- Suggestion for Preventing Conflict and Neighbourhood Disputes or listen to our upcoming podcast Neighbor Nuisance Brings You Holiday Annoyance to prepare for the holidays.

Written by Tierra Henry, Graduate Student

University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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