How to fix a noisy neighbour (and avoid prison)

noisy neighborWhat started out as a simple neighbours’ quarrel over garbage disposal and noise in a remote Chinese village two decades ago, recently resulted in the shooting death of 68 year old Mr Yingguan Chen in New York.

A dispute in a remote Chinese village… that led to a murder twenty years later in New York I hear you say?

Vicki Chen, the victim’s daughter, revealed that Wu Long  and her father were neighbours in China some two decades ago and would get into arguments over noise and refuse. Apparently, Wu Long got into the habit of tossing trash into her family’s yard and making noise late into the night. Confrontations and fights ensued and nothing was ever resolved.  However, it was thought that after all this time enough water had passed under the bridge and bygones had been forgotten.

But apparently Wu Long never did relinquish his animosity towards his former neighbour, and twenty years on a chance spotting of Mr Chen leaving a wedding in New York was all it took for his anger and vengeance to come flooding back. Later that day, after stalking Mr Chen through the streets of Brooklyn, he cornered him outside a Popeye’s Eatery in Sunset Park and shot him numerous times at point blank range.

And despite the horror of such an incident as this, it seems that a quick check with Professor Google of “solutions for noisy neighbours”, regretfully reveals an unfortunate list of angst (masked as solutions) which includes:

  • Putting up embarrassing “shame notes” on apartment noticeboards about the perpetrator’s noisy habits (specifically mentioning things like, the neighbour’s late night sexcapades; their appalling taste in music; and advice for them to register for an alcoholics ‘unanimous’ group).
  • Putting your stereo speakers up against the dividing wall and blasting your offending neighbour with hours of One Direction …or perhaps Barry Manilow.
  • Banging on your neighbour’s door with all the rage you can muster and then heaping large dollops of abuse on them.
  • And finally, the one that caught my eye…’throwing a cup of piss on them’.

I imagine that last one might warrant a eventual trip to the Magistrates’ Court.

noisy next doorSo it seems that revenge is a dish best served any damn way you care to deliver it.

But all this aggressive tit for tat stuff never achieves solutions to noise problems, and mostly results in more fuel poured onto the flames of the dispute. So what might be a better way to address noise problems and lead to better harmony with neighbours?

Well, there is a vast array of legislation that exists across the world and here in Australia to deal with neighbourhood noise. Whether it’s the various Australian State laws like the Protection of the Environment Operations Act (NSW), the Public Health and Wellbeing Act (Vic), the Environmental Protection Act (WA & Qld); the innumerable “Dog Acts” to deal with canine noise; the local government regulations and ordinances on nuisance and noise etc …. The list is positively mind numbing, but the legislation rarely solves the ongoing problem.

noise policeOf course, government agencies are quick to give advice that suggests you talk to your neighbour about the noise problem, but never state how you should approach such conversations. So for those of you who aren’t familiar with one man who became a master at such conversations, let me introduce you to Mr Dale Carnegie author of one of the biggest selling books of all time, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

DALE CARNAGIECarnegie (pictured above) noted that: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivate pride and vanity.”

He would of believed that attacking and criticising a neighbour over noise was futile, as it puts that person on the defensive and simply leads to them striving to justify themselves. On top of which it wounds pride, hurts one sense of importance and arouses resentment. Smells like more fuel on that fire eh?

He suggested that the one secret of success lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own. Perhaps your neighbour is a shift worker, or hard of hearing or is drowning in his music after a particularly bad day. What if the neighbour isn’t even aware that you can hear the noise. If you never get their point of view because you’re reacting with simmering anger it’s all going to come off looking a bit one sided. So don’t react, and instead find the appropriate time to have a two way conversation about the noise.
As Edward De Bono notes:

“Make a real effort to see where the other person is coming from. Explore that person’s logic bubble”

Mr Carnegie was an astute character and knew that most people are not interested in you or me, but rather they are interested in themselves – morning, noon and night! So with any conversation you might wish to have about a noise problem, it’s better to start off by getting to know your neighbour and engaging them in things they like talking about.

Sick of hearing Bon Jovi at midnight? Find an interesting tidbit about Mr Jovi, smile, engage your neighbour when you next see them and eventually get to talking about the… noise.

happy neighboursAnother thing that I find works after having a pleasant exchange with your neighbour, is to state any concern you have in a way where you put your neighbour in the best possible light and assume there must be a mistake. For example you could say, “You seem like such a lovely person you probably had no idea the music was affecting our sleep”. Here, you didn’t demand or request anything, all you did was compliment your neighbour and bring the noise to his or her attention.

Winning arguments with neighbours over noise may make you feel great but as Carnegie states: ” You have made the person feel inferior and have hurt their pride. In the end people just resent your triumph”.

On the other hand, if you would prefer to engage with your neighbour with an impartial third party sorting things out between the two of you, there are great places like the Community Justice Centres in NSW  that can organise a dispute resolution (mediation) process. Contact your Community Legal Centre  for more details on what is available in your part of the world.

At the end of the day, if despite your best efforts the noise does not abate and becomes such a nuisance it is affecting your well being, call the police and for heaven’s sake let them deal with the situation.

For some neighbours surely are the devil incarnate.