LIFE: Five easy ways to get to know your neighbors

16.0822.hello

By Ben Fanning, contributing editor  |  I smelled something so awful on the floor of our New York City apartment building; I knew our neighbor must be dead.  I called the police to report it, and they asked her name…

I didn’t know.

Fortunately, about that time, I opened the microwave to discover it was 3-day old broccoli. I was relieved, yet embarrassed that I didn’t know who the heck my neighbor was.

Do you know your neighbor’s name?

According to a Harris Survey only 53 percent of Americans do.   This reveals a big problem.

Fanning

Fanning

When you don’t know your neighbor you feel less supported, less secure and less invested in the immediate community around you.  The world starts to feel a lot more dangerous.

This nameless neighbor issue also has bigger implications — creating a disconnected, distrustful community for the next generation.

Instead, don’t be a statistic. Get to know your neighbor:

  • Enjoy being at home more
  • Feel safer and more invested in your community
  • Have more fun

Five ways to get to know your neighbor without being annoying

#1:  Wave

My grandfather used to do this all the time. Let’s bring this back. Once you enter your neighborhood, adopt the wave rule. Wave at anyone you see, even if you don’t know them.  This injects a small, positive burst of energy into your community.

#2:  Stroll

It’s easy to get caught up in walking only for exercise or getting to your destination.  This sends out the message, “I’m busy; don’t talk to me.”  Try a stroll which is to walk in a leisurely way. Notice how enjoyable this can be and how it opens opportunity for conversation.

#3: Ask, “What’s your name?”

Knowing your neighbor’s name is important to know and pretty simple.  However, it’s a seriously awkward question if you’ve lived beside someone for a long time or have heard their name but can’t remember it. THAT’S OKAY. Just say, “Just wanted to stop by and say hi.  Could you please remind me of your name.  I’d like to know my neighbor and want you to know me.”

My favorite move is to say, “My name is Ben,” then reach out to shake their hand.  This often leads them introducing themselves without me having to ask.  Then go back and write it down, so you’ll remember next time.

#4:  Kick start a new conversation

Don’t overthink this.  Keep it light, and ask an open-ended question that creates a conversation.  Avoid a yes/no question or a question that requires a one word response like, “fine” or “good.”  Try, “How have you been enjoying our (fill in the blank with neighborhood, street, or weather)?”

#5:  Gather

Now that you’ve established contact, consider easy ways you can gather your neighbors so they can get to know each other.  This generates momentum for positive relations and a stronger community.

Try an impromptu evening group stroll a group coffee chat around an issue that’s facing the neighborhood, or even a holiday party.  Now try one of the strategies above in your neighborhood. Notice the positive impact you can make!

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