Conflicts with the people next door can get very annoying and stressful, especially when they complain about everything all the time.
So, how do you deal with neighbors that complain about everything? We asked experts to share their insights.
Table of Contents
- Become familiar with any covenants or other neighborhood restrictions where you live
- Kill them with kindness
- Ensure proper documentation
- Do try to talk it out civilly
- Talk with your other neighbors
- When they complain, ask them “How can I help you with that issue?”
- You can also respond with “What is your plan”, to a complaint
- Don’t take it personally
- Don’t retaliate or up the ante
- Acknowledge and take time to listen
- Have a clear picture of the problem and try to set the facts straight
- Show kindness
- Have a sitdown with your neighbor
- Remain calm and composed
Clinical Psychologist | Professor of Psychology | Author, “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Narcissistic Relationship“
Malcontented neighbors can be very psychologically stressful and even expensive. The worst thing you can do is to take them head-on or try to out-argue them or be more disagreeable than them. More often than not, it will just make things worse.
Before you move in, either you or your real estate agent optimally will do some kind of due diligence. The fact is, that difficult neighbors are not something that has to be disclosed because it is considered subjective but try and get a pulse on the neighbors.
Become familiar with any covenants or other neighborhood restrictions where you live
First, you need to do your due diligence. Become familiar with any covenants or other neighborhood restrictions where you live. Be clear on everything from trash can storage to Halloween decorations. Much like the nosy neighbor on Bewitched, it’s as though they have too much time on their hands, and their lives are about issuing grievances.
At a minimum, make sure you are on the right side of things. To help you along with that – take pictures to document anything just in case (e.g. your holiday decorations etc).
Kill them with kindness
Difficult neighbors know what to do if you become combative, but they tend to be blindsided if you are kind. It is often good neighbor karma if perhaps at holiday time you give them a small gift with a kind note.
You may be grumbling to yourself the entire time as you place it at their doorstep, but they are so often used to the antagonism that kindness may disarm them for a minute. (but do not get naive and believe it is a permanent panacea).
Related: 50+ Random Acts of Kindness
Ensure proper documentation
Third, if things escalate, make sure you document, and if the neighbor is being very intrusive, ensure you have cameras that can record and that the recordings are stored. If the neighbor is trespassing or otherwise meddling with your property, you will need evidence.
Take pictures of any issues they are raising so you have documentation as needed. You may need to retain an attorney, and he or she can only do their job if you have documentation. Do not take matters into your own hands.
Do try to talk it out civilly
Listen with an empathic ear, don’t get into the mud with them. Try and find the middle ground. If they do engage in abusive language, raise their volume, or say inappropriate things, you can end the conversation.
Difficult neighbors are notorious for pushing you to say something regrettable and then pulling out their phone to record it. Don’t fall into that trap and just step away when the tone becomes hostile. Don’t antagonize them, have a loud party to spite them, etc.
Talk with your other neighbors
Don’t gossip, but having a difficult neighbor can make the entire neighborhood seem hostile. Create alliances with your healthier neighbors and foster a sense of community. Don’t let your difficult neighbor rob you of that.
Also, if you are having a get-together or something else that may impact flow into your neighborhood, building, or community, let others know about it. Most people appreciate the consideration, and then they are more likely to remain your allies when the neighbor lashes out at you for having people over for dinner.
Dr. Cali Estes, Ph.D., MCAP, MAC, ICADC
Psychologist | Cognitive Behavioral Therapist | Founder, The Addictions Coach
Our brains are hardwired for the negative. If you look at TV, for example, and you watch a 30-minute news segment, it is 29 minutes of negative news: shootings, lootings, sickness, death, murder, and maybe 1 minute of a feel-good story like a young Girl Scout selling cookies.
Add in social media like Facebook, where it seems everyone is arguing and complaining these days and you now have a negative living environment.
This translates into everyday life when you start to expect things to go wrong and when they do you start to complain, it snowballs, and complaining becomes a way of life for many.
Having neighbors that complain about everything, can be exhausting. You may even find yourself avoiding your neighbor because you don’t want to hear their negative attitude. Here is how you handle them.
When they complain, ask them “How can I help you with that issue?”
Asking an open-ended question prompts a solution and puts an end to the complaining. You can also say, “Sounds like you need to vent, I have this great coach that I work with that has helped me”. (give info). These are 2 ways to nicely say that you don’t want to hear negativity.
You can also respond with “What is your plan”, to a complaint
For example, if they say “I can’t believe the lawn boy didn’t show up again”, you can respond with, “Well, what is your plan?”.
These are solution-focused statements, that get the neighbor to understand that you will not tolerate the negative. If you continue like this, in a week or so the neighbor will stop complaining.
Certified Health and Wellness Coach | Behavior Change Specialist | Resource Director, Test Prep Reviews
The subject of dealing with people who live close to you can be tricky, so here are my solutions for dealing with neighbors that complain about everything.
Don’t take it personally
It can be hard not to take things personally when neighbors or anyone is chronically complaining to you, but the less personally you take their comments, the more rationally you can respond. Usually, chronic complainers see the glass half empty and it isn’t about you.
Don’t retaliate or up the ante
Once one party starts to complain, whether about noise or dogs barking, it is human nature to point fingers back and blame them. This won’t do any good. Stay as calm as possible and do your best to listen to their complaints. If legitimate, take action to do the right thing, and then limit your exposure to them.
Often people who are chronic complainers are just plain difficult people. The best thing to do if you are dealing with difficult neighbors is to be as cordial as possible, get to know enough about them so you can be polite and show that you care.
Take each complaint seriously by assessing if you really do need to take action, or if they are just being hard to get along with. If you are not making noise past certain hours, if you don’t have an incessant barking dog, or doing things in any way to annoy them, then stay “light and polite,” limit the time you spend with them, and just be a good neighbor even if they aren’t.
Sometimes people who complain about everything can be softened when you show them a little kindness, but set firm boundaries.
Senior Marketing Client Manager, ThoughtLab
Acknowledge and take time to listen
The most important thing to a neighbor who complains about everything is that they just want to be heard. Whether their “Kids at Play” sign keeps getting vandalized or their post on next door continues to go un-liked or without comments, your cranky neighbor just needs to complain and they just need someone to listen.
When confronting someone like this, it’s extremely important to first listen to what they have to say. The next most important thing to do is to acknowledge them and their problem, regardless of how nitpicky it is. Then you can insert your suggestion or response. As long as they feel their voice has been heard, they might even listen to you!
Career Development Manager, VelvetJobs
Have a clear picture of the problem and try to set the facts straight
At some point in our lives, we encountered neighbors who complain about anything and everything. But how do we deal with these types of people? How do we handle a stressful environment and avoid future conflicts?
When dealing with these types of neighbors, it is important to have an open mind and not overreact. Listen and get to the bottom of the problem. Try to be polite when conversing to them and gather as much information as possible. Always look at a mutually acceptable solution.
Get the stories and the facts straight and gather as many details as possible. Sometimes, having a clear picture of what the problem is will make it easier to deal with. And if the person continues with the harassment, then, you may already seek the intervention of your lawyer. Take legal action before thinking about packing and moving out.
Having moved 10 times during the 15 years of living in London, I have had a wide variety of neighbors. Some of them were nice and friendly, whilst others could be quite difficult to deal with.
One type of neighbors that I’ve come across and who were particularly challenging to deal with were those who tend to complain about absolutely everything.
What did they complain about? Me doing exercise for 10 minutes at 6 pm because they could hear me jumping upstairs. An imaginary mouse in the building that in their opinion warranted ripping off the floors in my flat. Doing house renovations in the middle of the day because it was too noisy. Ordering takeaway and clothes too often because it meant frequent deliveries. The list goes on!
How did I deal with them? Arguing or ignoring them only made things worse and I quickly realized it would get me nowhere. The best way to improve the situation turned out to be kindness.
Despite their complaining, I always tried to be nice and friendly. I always acknowledged their complaints first but quickly changed the subject to something else that involved them.
I would always smile at them, ask how they were and if they needed anything from the shop, offer to water their plants and look after their pets if they were going away, invite them for a cup of tea and my barbeques, give them Christmas cards, etc.
Related: How to Be a Nicer Person
Getting more involved in their lives and allowing them to get to know me better worked like a charm. They would eventually give up complaining about small things and become much more pleasant to be around.
In the majority of cases, they turned out to be lonely. Having someone to talk to make a positive impact on their attitude.
I suppose “kill them with kindness” is the magic formula!
Have a sitdown with your neighbor
I’ve experienced this in the past, and I resolved it by having a sitdown with this person to sort out our differences. Chances are, these constant complaints are from unaddressed issues they’ve always wanted to raise with you. I had a chat with this person and we settled things like adults.
I guess I was fortunate enough to have a sensible enough neighbor, and a lot of you may not be so lucky. If that’s the case, you need to take drastic measures like raising the issue to the powers that be, or at worse, moving out. You don’t need this kind of stress in your life.
Realtor and Co-Founder, Condo Wizard
Remain calm and composed
It’s easy to feel angry and resort to harsh words and arguments when faced with a neighbor who seems to complain about everything, especially when you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong.
However, I found that the best way to deal with overly sensitive people is to remain calm and composed and to kill them with kindness.
This may seem like an overrated way of dealing with problems like this, but it is actually quite effective. Being polite and taking the time to listen to your neighbors complaints, no matter how insignificant they seem, will eventually make them realize that you plan to be as helpful as possible and hopefully, ease them into a more relaxed state.
Sometimes, people who complain about everything all the time just want to feel heard. Fighting fire with fire never resolves any conflicts, which is why it’s always better to be patient and work things out as civil as possible.