It’s certainly easy for those brought up in a different time to bemoan our current social state. Most of us get the standard musings such as “people don’t talk anymore”, “people don’t look you in the eye”, and of course, “you’re always on your phone!” What’s more difficult to confront, is explaining why these advancements in technology and culture have directly caused us to abandon behaviours that have bonded us as humans.
An area where this is most evident is within the changing relationships with our next-door neighbours. Not too long ago, we knew them by name, invited them over for parties, and chatted to them when grabbing the mail or putting the bins out. Like those we work with, they were the people we shared our space with and therefore shared common ground. Even if all you could talk about was the weather, it was a relationship you felt was important.
Now you could go on all day listing the obvious as to why connecting with your neighbours is less necessary. Services, utilities and items are more readily available, the internet has connected us with those we share direct interests with, eliminating awkward small-talk, and with two incomes needed to support a household, there’s often simply nobody home. You could definitely use these reasons and a bunch more to justify why we simply shouldn’t bother. However, it then causes us to miss the question of what could we be missing out on? Are we getting enough face to face communication? Was something as small as a quick chat over the fence genuinely good for us?
Not too long ago, the idea of gyms and exercise equipment was either considered farfetched or the sole domain of the super-fit. Most people worked in laborious jobs and stayed fit that way. Then, as the professional world became more sedentary, many realised for their own health’s sake, that they needed to re-incorporate the physical activity they were no longer getting in their day to day lives. In our case, this naturally leads us to wonder what aspects of speaking to your neighbours really did benefit us without realising! Things like eye-contact, getting along with someone you may have not usually given a chance, and even good old fashioned civility. So here’s a few tips (just like exercising!) to maintain these important connections without overcommitting:
Break the Ice
Get past the awkward stares! A smile and hello is really not that hard. You might strike up a conversation that reveals your neighbour to be someone you could really get along with. On the contrary, you may have no common ground at all. Either way, you’ll know by acknowledging each other, and if all it amounts to is a nod while grabbing the mail, that’s still an improvement!
Watch the noise!
We’re all only human. We sometimes yell at each other, watch TV too loud and party too late. It’s usually impossible to avoid these types of things straight out, but it’s important to perhaps have an awareness of when it might be happening a little too often. If a neighbour calls you or knocks on the door to ask you to keep the noise down, you can rest assure that they’ve only done that after having dealt with your excess noise on several occasions. Most people can’t stand confrontations, so rarely would somebody go to that effort the very first time they heard a racket.
This is only becoming more relevant in Australia as living conditions for many become more condensed. While issues of shared living space applies more to apartments, it’s easy not to see how neglecting your own property doesn’t just affect you. Overgrown trees and plants, bad rubbish management, and even an uncut lawn can quickly become someone else’s problem. Besides, taking pride in your place is good for you! The fact that it helps your neighbours is just an added bonus.
Offer a helping hand
It’s just good old fashioned karma. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and provide some assistance when you can see it’s needed. It could be as simple as helping someone take in their groceries or providing some extra fuel for their lawnmower. Gestures such as these might seem small but are actually an incredibly strong sign of character. If they end up not coming across as particularly grateful, then no harm done. If they are, then you’ll be surprised at how these random acts of kindness can be reciprocated!