How to Flip a Gossipy Neighbor
Five steps to get you past malevolence and into harmony. Maybe.
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST WAS WRITTEN AS A RESPONSE TO A 60 MINUTE WRITING PROMPT FOR AN ONLINE WRITING COURSE. I DO NOT NOW, NOR HAVE I EVER, HAD GOSSIPY NEIGHBORS (THAT I KNOW OF)
Most of us have at least one, some of us have multiples. Nosy neighbors. Someone who thinks we’re his business and who won’t keep his judgments and your actions to himself. Buy a new lawnmower? The rest of the neighbors know before you crank it up for the first time. Fight with your partner? Rumors of divorce go floating down the cul-de-sac before you can even get to the make up sex.
Wouldn’t you like to know how to rehab that neighbor? To flip him like a house in need of rehab without a demo day? If you don’t do something, he’s not changing his spots or going away anytime soon.
Flipping a nosy, gossipy neighbor takes courage and demands action. Presiding over the transformation from hell on wheels to something at least tolerable is not a task for the fainthearted. How do you flip ‘em?
First, if you don’t want to put in the work, sell your damn house and move away. Yeah, I didn’t think you’d like that.
So second, if you don’t want to move and you aren’t willing to live with the status quo, the only other alternative is to call him on his loose lips. Respectfully and firmly.
Here are five steps you can try to flip your neighbor before you call your Realtor.
Step 1: Don’t ignore him. Knock on his door some Saturday morning. Tell him you’d like to take him for coffee or offer him a beer on your patio.
Step 2: Tell him that you know he’s been telling others things about you that aren’t his to tell. He’ll deny it but keep after it. Don’t get angry. Be firm and respectful. Explain the problem as you understand it and then ask him for his perspective on what happened. Then shut up and let him talk.
As he does, make sure you make the appropriate affirming noises and ask for clarification about anything dicey along the way. Doing this helps him feel heard – if he doesn’t feel that you heard him, you’ll never get past the first five minutes with him. And importantly, when he winds down, thank him. The goal is not to beat him about the neck and ears but to solve your problem.
Step 3: Help him understand how his actions have impacted you and your family – how you feel. If your partner falls asleep crying every night because of divorce rumors, he needs to understand that. If your kids are being bullied at school, that’s important for him to know too.
Step 4: Come up with a plan: when you feel like he understands how his actions have impacted your family, have him help you come up with a plan to undo the damage (I know, that’s not possible, but he needs to be part of resolving things). Agree on what both of you will do to make sure it never happens again.
Step 5: Monitor - trust but verify. Figure out how you both will determine that the plan is working and address future disagreements. It’s not likely everything will go smoothly, though wouldn’t that be great?
Living in a community is hard work. It requires we all get along. It also requires that we take good care of relationships, proactively fixing things when they go wrong.
I can’t guarantee these five steps will work like magic, but they might., And wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day your neighbor becomes your friend?
Could happen. I know. Not bloody likely. But maybe.