2536 Columbine Circle
Lafayette, CO 80026
Robin N. Amadei, Director
phone: 303-604-1960
fax: 303-604-6278
Email: ramadei@aol.com
Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC
Helping People Reach Common Ground



Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC

My next door neighbor has several junk cars out front.  The unsightly mess is ruining my property value!

That teenager across the street is driving me crazy with his stereo running full blast and his loud friends slamming car doors at all hours of the night! 

My neighbor borrowed my lawn mower and broke it.  Now he is avoiding me and I am out a $500 lawn mower!

My neighbor is so picky.  Every little noise that we make gets her in a tizzy!

My neighbors' shed encroaches on my property.  I'm sure of it. 

That dog barks day and night.  Even in the summer I have to close the window just to get some peace and quiet!

Do these situations sound at all familiar to you?  If so, you are not alone.  We all would like to have considerate and perfect neighbors.  Unfortunately, one neighbor's lifestyle is another neighbor's nightmare.  So, how can we handle these and other types of neighborhood annoyances?


The first and best option is to discuss the issue directly with the neighbor, using effective communication and problem-solving techniques.  Two main communication tools that will revolutionize the effectiveness of your communication, not only with your neighbors, but with your colleagues, spouses, friends and others in your life, include active listening and the use of 'I' messages.

Active listening.  The purpose of active listening is to demonstrate to the speaker that he or she has been heard, to encourage further communication, to enable venting to take place and to help the other person clarify his or her thoughts.  It is very difficult to listen, especially when you may disagree with what is being said.  Truly listening is critical, however, if you want to get your problem solved.  Specific active listening techniques include:

            - Maintain good eye contact
            - Pay full attention to speaker
            - Match speaker's body language
            - Do not interrupt the speaker
            - Provide verbal and body responses such as saying mhmm, nodding head
            - Encourage further sharing
            - Paraphrase or summarize what you have heard 

Effective speaking using 'I' messages.  The purpose of speaking effectively is to enable the other person to really hear what you have to say, to prevent the listener from going on the defensive, to enhance the likelihood that the problem will be resolved and to focus on the problem instead of the person involved in the situation.  You need to be in a calm, centered state when entering into the communication.  Venting your rage will only exacerbate an already difficult situation. 

The process to use is:

            - Describe the behavior/situation factually (without judgement)
            - Describe why the behavior is unacceptable to you
            - Describe what you would like to see differently in the future  

I would advise practicing these skills in less volatile situations first, so that you are ready to engage in a difficult neighborhood situation with aplomb.  Then, use these skills to enter into problem solving, using the following model.

Steps to resolving a conflict: 

1.  Think of a constructive way to deal with the situation before you speak

2.  Both people should agree to ground rules

            A.  No interrupting
            B.  No name calling or put-downs
            C.  Speak for yourself, not the other person

3.  One person tells his/her view of the situation, using Effective Speaking techniques

4.  Second person actively listens and restates what the problem is for the first person

(Steps 3 and 4 are repeated with the second person telling his/her view and the first person restating)

5.  Both people suggest and list possible solutions

6.  Both people agree on a resolution that most meets their needs by choosing from the list generated in Step 5.

7.  How did it go?  What might work better next time.  


In the event that, despite your best efforts, the problem can not be solved on your own, try mediation.  In mediation a neutral third party (the mediator) facilitates the negotiation between the people in conflict.  The mediator uses various techniques to enable the parties to truly understand each others' needs so that effective problem solving can take place.  The mediator keeps the discussion focussed on the issues pertinent to the dispute, ensures that effective communication is used and assists the parties in moving the negotiations forward to resolution.  The dispute and eventual resolution remains in the parties' hands because the mediator does not make any decisions, although he or she may have some options for the parties to consider. 

Mediation is an informal, timely, relatively inexpensive, flexible and psychologically satisfying process to be considered when in a dispute with your neighbor.  Many communities have mediation services that use volunteer mediators to provide free mediation for many types of community disputes.  Otherwise, you can contact a private mediator to discuss your situation and determine whether mediation is appropriate for your conflict.


When involved in a neighborhood or community dispute, the first step is to try to work the conflict out on your own using the communication skills of active listening and effective speaking.  If it is not possible to resolve the issues yourselves, try mediation.

Robin Amadei, J.D., Director of Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC, 303-604-1960, is a mediator, facilitator, trainer and coach in the family, real estate, education, business, and employment areas.

Prepared by Robin N. Amadei, Common Ground,  303-604-1960.  All rights reserved.

Helping People Reach Common Ground