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Dealing with neighbourhood conflict

By Marilyn Campton

Fences, trees, noisy cars, kids or even dogs – whatever the issue, having a neighbour you can’t get along with can make life very stressful. Before you reach the point where you feel you need to pack up and move away, here are some suggestions for resolving the conflict.

  • If you have a problem with someone (and assuming there is no threat of physical danger), talk to the person face to face. This is far less damaging than writing messages or letters, or talking to everyone else but the person with whom you have concerns.
  • Make a time that suits both of you to sit down and talk without interruptions. Don’t start when you’re really stirred up about the issue, the kids need to be fed or the other person is heading off to work.
  • Plan what you want to say. It’s important to state clearly what the problem is and how you feel about it.
  • Take care with your language – don’t call the other person names or accuse them of doing things just to annoy you. A neutral statement such as “when your car blocks my driveway it’s difficult to get in or out” leaves the other person with room to apologise and promise to fix the problem.
  • Give the other person a chance to give their side of the story and what they think has been happening to cause the trouble. Be prepared to relax, listen and take in everything. There is always a good chance the other person had no idea their actions were aggravating you.
  • Have someone act as an independent mediator – this could be a mutual acquaintance so long as they can’t be accused of bias.
  • Work out together how the problem can be resolved, and what each party will do. Then agree on a time when you will get back together and see how things are going with the resolution.

If it seems the situation can’t be resolved, contact your local Community or Neighbourhood Justice Centre (or Dispute Resolution Centre in South Australia). The centres offer the services of impartial and trained mediators, with a high success rate in the resolution of neighbourhood conflict.

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