Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually know all of the people living on your block? Or maybe you know some of them, but you don't really know much about them. Or about their lives.
Well, you've probably heard us brag about how great our neighbors are at some point. And, if you haven't, don't worry. You will!
But these relationships didn't just build overnight.
So, we have put together a list of the top 8 secrets we have found to building great relationships with your neighbors. And, just so you don't think we came up with these things all by ourselves, you should know we actually learned a lot of these secrets from the way our neighbors acted toward us.
1. Get Outside
The first thing you have to do if you want to get to know your neighbors is you have to have contact with them. This means no more of that suburban garage crap. You know. Where you get into your car before you open your garage. Then you pull out and drive away. Then, when you get home you pull into your garage. Then you close the door before you get out of your car.
We act like the paparazzi are out to get us. Or like we are half-vampire, and we can't possibly be outside for any amount of time. That's not gonna cut it if you're trying to build relationships with the people in your neighborhood.
You're going to have to actually spend some time out and about in your neighborhood. It's really not that hard. Go for a walk. move your Adirondack chairs to the front porch instead of the back patio. You might need to develop a new hobby or something.
Check out our post about this topic titled Porch Sitting and 7 More Excuses To Engage Your Neighbors if you're looking for a good reason to get outside.
2. Share Something to Eat or Drink
Who can resist a quick little snack or a refreshing drink?
One couple in our neighborhood often sits on their porch with a huge platter of meats and cheeses and fruits and all kinds of good stuff. And they welcome anyone to join them.
Certain neighbors (those who have really perfected the art of sharing food) can't sneak from their front door to their car without being greeted by a hungry neighbor kid asking for the specific food that neighbor is known for.
And nothing brings a group of adults together on the sidewalk quite like a nice bottle of wine or bourbon and a handful of glasses.
If you still haven't read Top 2 Missional Tools That Start A Conversation Every Time, you really should. It fits in here perfectly.
3. Learn Their Names
I (Joe) am terrible with names. I can remember a face that I haven't seen in 20 years, but names are my kryptonite.
Yet, we both know how important it is to be known by name. Have you ever run into someone who you've known for a long time only to find out they don't remember your name? On the other hand, how great do you feel when someone important remembers your name? Especially when there is no way they should have remembered.
Names are important. If you need to, you can steal a tip from me. I have a list in my phone where I put people's names when I first meet them. I also try to put something memorable next to the names so the list will actually help me in the future. Otherwise, I may as well just pull up a list of baby names and try to guess.
The half mile or so around our block has a large dog population. Sometimes, knowing the name of a person's dog as they walk past is just as important (if not more) as knowing the name of the owner.
However you do it, you need to remember names.
4. Listen to What People Have to Say
You've been there before. You're halfway through telling a story, when you notice your audience glancing at their phones. Or looking straight over your shoulder at something more interesting. Or -even worse- they interrupt you mid-sentence with a statement completely unrelated to your story.
Or how about when you are telling the same person what you do for a living for the fifth time this week, because they weren't listening the first four times?
Doesn't really make you want to talk to that person too much, does it?
If you really want to build a meaningful relationship with someone, you can't be that guy (or girl). You need to pay attention. And sometimes you need to even participate in the conversation (we know that might be asking a lot).
Maybe this will require a little note taking too. That's all up to you. But, you want your new friends to know you are paying attention to what they have to say.
5. Care About Their Friends
We tend to like people who like other people we like. If you don't like our friends, then chances are we won't spend much time together.
On the other hand, if you get along well with the people we spend the most time with, then you will probably be invited to a lot more events.
There is a tendency to segregate our friends from our neighbors. As if there is no overlap. Why? Our neighbors are our friends. And our neighbors friends are our friends too.
If you've done a good job of getting outside, then opportunities will come up for you to meet your neighbors' friends. When they do, be your most outgoing self. Introduce yourself. Say something nice about your neighbor. Take some time to get to know these new people. And try to remember their names!
6. Offer to Help
It can be easy to get so caught up in our own little worlds that we overlook opportunities right in front of us. And, it's funny how far a tiny gesture can go.
Whether you're offering to help a new neighbor move all their furniture into the house next door or you're offering to help carry in some groceries, your offer will be remembered. The fact that you noticed a need and made an offer to help goes a long way.
This is one of the main points in the book we wrote, Bless Like Jesus: Stop Trying to Convert and Simply Show People They Matter. The book is flooded with examples of how our neighbors blessed us in this way. They definitely taught us this lesson.
7. Throw a Party
It doesn't matter what month it is, or what holidays may or may not be coming up. You can find a reason to throw a party. Heck, who needs a reason. Just set it up. And invite your neighbors.
Or maybe you already have a party planned with some friends. Invite your neighbors.
It doesn't even have to be big. It could just be a barbecue. Invite your neighbors.
But, don't make this the first thing you do. You can try to just blindly hand out invitations to a party at your house. But, if you haven't already spent some time getting to know your neighbors and showing them that you care, then you shouldn't expect a huge turnout.
In 7 Easy Steps to Party with Your Neighbors Every Week, we shared the steps we took a few years ago. What started out as a fairly impromptu hangout in our front yard has now become something everyone looks forward to as the weather starts getting nice.
8. Accept Invitations (even when it's inconvenient)
This whole process goes both ways, you know. Once you start showing your neighbors that you care, they're probably going to start inviting you over for things too.
This one seems pretty simple, right?
Someone invites you over for dinner. It's pretty easy to say yes and show up.
Pool party when it's 100 degrees out? Of course that sounds nice.
But what about when it's a bit inconvenient?
One time we were invited over to a neighbor's house for drinks and some food. We were excited, because we hadn't seen much of these neighbors lately. So, even though I (Sarah) had just finished making dinner for the family, we grabbed a six-pack out of the fridge and took the kids to the neighbors' house. For us, the opportunity to spend time with these neighbors and their friends was important. So we packaged up the the dinner we planned to eat and put it in the fridge for the next day.
And it was totally worth it!
Is That Enough for Now?
There are dozens of other things you can (and probably should) do build relationships with your neighbors. We know this list is incomplete, but these are some of the things we found to be the most beneficial.
Try putting some of these things into action. We'd love to hear about your experiences. And if you know of a secret we missed here, we'd love to hear it below!