I don’t like it when my neighbor comes over without calling. How can I tell her to call first without straining the relationship? Asked by Tammy – 30 something, Billings, MT
Social etiquette is a tough subject. Do we tell someone that their behavior is bothering us? Or do we keep quiet while our feelings fester? Let’s see what our panelists offered to help Tammy in her situation.
Be upfront with your neighbor, but of course doing it in a ‘neighborly’ fashion is important. You could say something such as, “If you wouldn’t mind giving me a call as your coming over, I wouldn’t want to miss seeing you if I were in the shower, backyard, etc.” If your neighbor still doesn’t get the hint, you might try throwing on your bathrobe and a towel turban before you answer the door and suggest for him/her to come back in 10 minutes, or when you choose a good time would be. Hopefully that will send the signal that they obviously came at an inconvenient time and should have given you some warning. Marjorie – 30 something
Honesty will work best in this case, I believe. The next time she comes calling and you are in your bathrobe, or have the toilet cleaning brush in your hand, or are frazzled from trying to finish a work deadline, bring this condition to the door with you (toilet brush in hand would be very effective, I would think). Tell her you have other things going on, why doesn’t she call you in a little bit to see if your plate is cleared. I would be polite but firm. It would be great if we could sit around all day over a glass of iced tea and shoot the breeze, but laundry calls. If she gets a little miffed you may have to live with it, but if you are consistent then she will have to start to understand. Amy C. – 40 something
Neighbor situations are very tricky (and sticky!). The next time she drops by, I’d ask her for her phone # and give her a slip of paper with yours on it too. I’d say something like “Barb, I wanted to make sure that we had each others phone numbers. I’m having a very busy summer/fall/winter/fill in the blank and it would help me out if you could give me a call before coming over. That way I can make sure we have time to visit. Today is a good example – I have tons of stuff to get done and I don’t have time to talk. How about getting together tomorrow at 2?”
It will feel crunchy because it is. Her motivation is to spend time with you, and if you can offer her an alternative way to do that and allow her to ‘save face’ in the process, everyone wins. Good luck! Amy B. – 40 something
I’m the wrong person to answer this question-I happen to like it when people “stop by”. I consider it a lost art. But perhaps this person is someone you aren’t glad to see or comes when they know they can get something from you. How about if you tell her that you love to have her stop by and it is so wonderful to see her-but you are just so busy right now that it would be best if she could give you a call first so you could really have time to be with her. Or you could tell her you have become a nudist and need a “heads up” so you can put on some clothes first. Your choice! Ann – 50 something
This is a tricky situation because while it is important to set boundaries with your neighbor, you need to do it with grace and tact.
I would recommend the “oreo” approach…start with a compliment, state what you want, and end with a compliment. Something like: “Countney, it is such a pleasure to look at how wonderful your garden is. You know, I need your help on something. I need you to call me before you want to drop by for a visit. You know me, I always want to have my house presentable but more importantly, I want to be sure I can spend some quality time with you. I value our friendship and I would be so grateful if you did that. By the way, those shoes are great looking.”
It sounds staged when I write it but be genuine, give soft eye contact, and hopefully your neighbor will get the message. Louise – 60 something
Honesty in a kind and gentle way always is the best policy. Just say, “I love it when you come by to visit but sometimes I am in the middle of something and it would be really helpful if you call me first. That way I can give you my undivided attention and we can chat.” Helene – 60 something
Seems like everyone agrees to speak up for yourself in this social etiquette situation. But speaking up also includes taking the neighbors feelings into account. It’s a win, win situation for all involved.