When is the last time you had the chance to hang out with your neighbor? If you are as blessed as I am to have good neighbors, then the answer is probably sometime in the last day or two. I found out recently, that i was the exception to the rule.
Almost one third of Americans have no interactions with their neighbors, according to a report by the nonprofit City Observatory. That’s a big change from the 1970s when almost 30% said that they spent time with their neighbors at least twice a week.
What’s behind this shift? Maybe it’s because we spend so much time on our phones or chatting online. Maybe it’s the result of changing jobs and moving more frequently. Some of it has to do with our recent quarantines and social distancing mandates.
However it happened, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s a significant loss. Take a look at the benefits of getting to know your neighbors and easy ways to make it happen.
Benefits of Getting to Know Your Neighbors:
- Make new friends. It can be difficult to make friends as we grow older. Exploring your immediate surroundings creates a lot of new prospects. Just living in the same neighborhood already gives you something in common.
- Exchange support. Knowing your neighbors pays off when you need advice about how to water your lawn or you want to borrow a wrench. You can help each other save time, energy, and money.
- Stay safe. Whether you organize an official neighborhood watch or just keep an eye out for each other, close communities discourage crime. You’ll make your homes and streets safer. People will watch out for each other and check in when things don’t seem quite right.
- Build community. The biggest advantage may be feeling like you belong. You’ll be happy to come home each evening when you like and trust the family who lives next door. We all need community – and it is so convenient when it is right next door or across the street.
Simple Ways to Connect with Your Neighbors:
- Take a walk. When you’re driving your car, it’s difficult to stop and chat. Try traveling around your area on foot. Wave and say hello to anyone you see. Comment on the weather or strike up a conversation if they seem friendly. Be friendly, not pushy, and eventually you will get to know each other a little better. From there, who knows?
- Hang out. Just being visible can help. If your house has a front porch or yard, spend time outside. Strike up that conversation when you see others outside – wave, nod, be cordial. If you don’t have outdoor space of your own, look for shared spaces like community rooms or pools.
- Participate on Nextdoor. Register for Nextdoor or become more active. It’s a social network where you can stay informed about your neighborhood. Check it frequently, comment on posts, and be supportive. Try to stay as positive as you can and people will respond to you more.
- Ask questions. Are you looking for recommendations for a plumber or a dermatologist? Your neighbors will probably appreciate a chance to share their knowledge, especially if you return the favor. You can ask online (see Nextdoor section above) or you can just ask someone you see outside. People like to talk about what they know.
- Volunteer your services. Charity runs and food drives are a great way to meet others who care about your community. Contact a group that sounds interesting or check with your local volunteer clearinghouse. Is there a school in your neighborhood? That’s a great way to volunteer and meet people in your area at the same time.
- Gather contact information. You don’t want to sound creepy, so make sure you treat this one carefully. Offer to make a neighborhood directory. It’s easier to stay in touch when you have someone’s name and phone number. You could even volunteer to put together an online resource where anyone can keep their own details updated.
- Adopt a dog. Pets are surefire icebreakers. Let your dog introduce you to someone new at the local park or a coffee shop with an outdoor patio. Just be considerate – not everyone is comfortable around animals. Also, be sure to clean up after your dog if you are out and about.
- Schedule play dates. Children can help too. You might meet other parents while walking your younger sons and daughters to the school bus or shopping for clothes. Follow up by making plans to get together for a play date. The kids can have some fun, and you can get to know each other.
- Throw a block party. Entertaining can be easy. Invite a few neighbors over at a time for small dinners. Organize a potluck or a picnic where everyone can share the work. This is a great way for people to get together right in the neighborhood and come and go as they please. If you have a local park in the area, that’s a great option. If not, check with city hall as some cities allow you to block off the street so long as you get a permit first.
- Be consistent. Don’t just take one walk, say hello, and expect your neighbors to be your new best friends. You need to be out and about consistently so people are familiar with who you are. Start a neighborhood walking group and invite people to join you as you go on your walks each day.
Developing positive relationships with your neighbors is an easy way to feel happier and more secure. Reach out and see what happens. You might make a new friend or two, and help make your neighborhood friendly for all who live there.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.
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