Get to know your neighbors, even if you’re shy
In this article:
Neighborliness usually delivers big benefits. Here are three excellent reasons to get to know your neighbors.
- Increased safety (good neighbors look out for each other)
- Improved health (tight communities experience less heart disease and stress)
- Appreciating home values (close-knit neighbors enjoy neater yards, lower crime rates and better schools)
Studies show improved health and educational outcomes for those living in mutually supportive neighborhoods.Verify your new rate (Jan 18th, 2019)
Get to know your neighbors — before they become your neighbors
You’ll hear plenty of advice when you’re searching for a home. But maybe the single smartest suggestion is to chat with the neighbors near any property you’re about to commit to. That applies whether you’re buying or leasing.
Your best bet may be returning to the street on a weekend afternoon. That’s when residents are most likely to be doing yard work, cleaning cars, unloading groceries or whatever. And it’s when it’s easiest to casually wander over and have a word.
When you’re socially challenged
Many of us are introverted. We’re as comfortable approaching complete strangers in their yard or driveway as we are dancing naked on tables in a downtown bar.
If you share such shyness, you may have developed coping strategies. Now’s the time to use them. Alternatively, bring along a friend or colleague and have him or her do the talking.
You can always start a conversation (and gather valuable information) by asking where the best / nearest market, sports bar, gym or park is.
If you’re naturally chatty, talk away. This could be a chance to form a friendship even before you move in. But remember: your primary objective is to listen and learn.
Just in case you hear remarks like these:
- “Yes, it’s a lovely place to live. Let’s hope it still is when they’ve finished construction on the highway/airport/nuclear power station that’s going to be sited 200 yards over there.”
- “Very quiet. Except for the guy opposite. He’s in a heavy metal band. Still, they only practice in his garage five nights a week and they’re often done by 1 a.m.”
- “Such a sad and messy divorce. Jim says he’s so desperate to move on he’d accept a crazily low offer.”
- “Really? I didn’t even know they’d begun to fix the issue with the foundations.”
- “You’re buying the murder house? How brave!”
- “The landlord’s going to be delighted. That place has been empty for years.”
You may not get information presented that blatantly. But listen “between the lines” for clues to useful revelations about those with whom you’ll be sharing space.
Advantages of participating in a thriving community
One man’s caring is another man’s intrusion. And developing close friendships with your neighbors has its downsides. People may drop in unannounced when the last thing you want is company. Worse, your neighbors will get into your business — and will probably gossip about you.
But most find the upsides outweigh the disadvantages. Who wants to make the local news as the rotting corpse nobody had missed for a couple of months?
Mutual support and safety
In an emergency, everyone can benefit from having a friendly neighbor at the end of a phone. Your flight’s delayed or there’s a panic at work: Who are you gonna call to check in on the kids or an elderly parent?
More routinely, who’s going to sign for your Amazon parcel or let in the HVAC engineer when you have other commitments? And who’s going to pop round with chicken soup and sympathy when you have flu?
Some places have Neighborhood Watch programs. Even where there isn’t one, it’s your concerned neighbor who’s most likely to call the police if a stranger is showing too close an interest in your home.
Being part of a mutually supportive network isn’t a sign of weakness. It gives you added strength.
Then there’s the “Roseto effect,” named after Roseto, Pennsylvania. That was the site of a half-century longitudinal study that explored the medical advantages of living in a supportive, closely-knit community. And it found such environments had a significantly lower incidence of heart disease and other stress-related illnesses.
Surprisingly, that correlation occurred regardless of other factors, such as diet and smoking.
Of course, it’s often a mistake to assume that correlation is the same as causation. But the Roseto study — and others that later affirmed its results — worked hard to differentiate between the two. Science suggests you and your family could live longer, healthier lives in a nurturing, supportive neighborhood.
Maybe you personally prefer to keep your distance from your neighbors. That likely won’t stop you benefiting from your neighborhood’s qualities when you come to sell your home.
Many homebuyers do like friendly, caring neighbors. And, if you live somewhere with a strong sense of community, your buyers will typically see lower crime rates, neater homes and yards, better schools and more attractive amenities. Each of those will usually pile value onto the home you’re selling.
Is it un-American to get to know your neighbors?
Are you a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” or President Herbert Hoover’s take on rugged individualism? If so, you may see it almost as your patriotic duty to shun your neighbors. But your narrow interpretation of their words is going to see you in a tiny minority.
Regardless of their political leanings, most Americans today see thriving communities and mutual support among neighbors as good things.
It’s true that rugged individualism and self-reliance were valuable qualities in the frontiersmen and women who opened up the nation in the centuries following the Pilgrim Fathers’ landing at Plymouth Rock. However, few Americans today have frontier-style lifestyles.
In 2016, about 80 percent of us lived in cities, according to the U.S. Census. And few among the 60 million who live in rural areas have much in common with Kit Carson or John Colter.
It’s self-evidently true that you have a right to pursue happiness in your own way. But you could miss out on such a lot if you fail to get to know your neighbors.