Dilemma: I've fallen out with my neighbours

Katharine Whitehorn / 01 March 2016

A reader writes to agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn after a falling out with her neighbours.



Dilemma: neighbours have become cold and distant

We recently moved into a new neighbourhood, and the couple next door were friendly, even if we weren’t exactly friends. 

But we recently had a misunderstanding about something left in the garden, though nobody was really rude, and since then they have been extremely cold and distant. 

We hate being on difficult terms with a neighbour, in our old place we all knew each other and could help with messages and so on. 

Can you think of anything nice I could do for our neighbours to restore good relations?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

It’s horrible, I know, being at odds with near neighbours and I’m sure you’re right to want to make things up. 

But it might be even better if you could somehow cause them to do you a good turn. Benjamin Franklin said that to cement a new friendship you should get the other party to do you a favour, as this makes them feel valued. This has become known as 'The Benjamin Franklin Effect'. 

A cousin of mine, in a situation such as yours, had a minor crisis; he and his wife had to rush off and leave keys with the neighbour to receive a delivery. 

He found they were friendlier after that, and said he realised they felt good because they were needed. You might try it.

Read our tips for making new friends.

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