Sometime last year, Olive Kabisa’s nine-year-old rode a neighbour’s bicycle without permission. What followed shocked the whole neighbourhood.
“I ran out of the house when I heard screams, only to find our neighbour kicking and punching my small brother, who was crying hysterically,” Olive, 21, recalls angrily.
The neighbour detained her brother at his house until their mother returned home.
"When mum came home, he told her that what my brother had done was very disrespectful, and that he had taken it upon himself to discipline him.
After that, we steered clear of that neighbour,” she says. While acknowledging that her brother was at fault, Olive feels that the punishment was too severe.
LIVING IN COCOONS
According to behavioural experts, behaviour such as Olive’s neighbour’s only creates disharmony in the community.
“Creating an environment in which neighbours co-exist peacefully is very crucial, so it is important to know your neighbour Creating an environment in which neighbours co-exist peacefully is very crucial, so it is important to know your neighbour and and their temperament not just to avoid annoying them, but also know how to relate with them,” says Ms Sheila Namulekwa, a psychologist at Amani Counselling Centre.
“Unlike in the past when neighbours could borrow salt from each other comfortably, times have changed. These days people, especially in urban areas, tend to live in cocoons and view even a friendly approach by a neighbour as a disturbance. As a result, you don’t really get to know your neighbour,” says Ms Namulekwa.
Noting that people do not choose their neighbours, Ms Namulekwa asserts that since people have different personalities, they tend to behave in unique and diverse ways. She outlined various common types of neighbours as:
THE “DANGEROUS” NEIGHBOUR
“Dangerous neighbours do not refer to people who are necessarily capable of causing harm, but to those very quiet individuals who to snap at others for the flimsiest of reasons,” she says.
And since we might not always know what to look out for when dealing with such people, communication is important.
“Showing them that we recognise them is important. Also, getting to know their boundaries to avoid anything that might ignite their fury is the way to go,” she explains.
THE UNKEMPT NEIGHBOUR
This category comprises neighbours who leave their compounds unkempt. For instance, they might not mow their lawns, cut down overhanging branches from trees in their compound or drain stagnant water in that might harbour disease-causing insects such as mosquitos.
So how do you handle such a neighbour? “First, you have to realise that that is who they are and appreciate them. If something they do affects you directly or indirectly, communication from the onset is key. This will help create a friendly environment that will enable you to open up about their unkempt compound and how it affects your life in a friendly manner,” says Ms Namulekwa.
Ms Namulekwa, advises that if you have a neighbour who is better off than you, do not try to keep up with them.
She says it is not their fault that they can exchange cars frequently or make trips abroad every so often. “So you cannot walk up to them one day and say, ‘Excuse me, you are too rich.’” Working hard and being friendly instead of hating them and being unnecessarily jealous of them is a healthy solution, she says.
There are neighbours who, after getting slightly acquainted with you, can barge into your house and head straight to the kitchen, take food from your fridge and heat it up without as much as a casual “Hi”.
Ms Namulekwa calls them wacky neighbours. She notes that as much as their behaviour is uncouth and inappropriate, do not be tempted to rush at them or perhaps even call the police.
Instead, she notes: “Yes, this is an infringement of personal space but let them know what they are doing is not okay with you in a respectful way, and that they must refrain from doing so. Such people might become so comfortable with you that they see nothing wrong with their behaviour. Talk to them politely and set boundaries.”
THE DIFFICULT NEIGHBOUR
Then there is what Ms Namulekwa calls the difficult neighbour, whom she says tends to complicate their lives unnecessarily. These are individuals, who, even if you reach out and try to establish an acquaintance with them and greet them whenever, you meet, will not bother to reply.
HOW TO YOU HANDLE SUCH PEOPLE
“Strive to maintain a good rapport with them in the sense that, no matter how much they ignore you, just keep trying. They might get amazed at your persistence and begin responding to your greetings.
“Even if they don’t respond, just remain friendly. The fewer the meetings, the more unfriendly it tends to be. Communication is the only way to make change,” offers the psychologist.
Noting that neighbours need not be difficult, ‘dangerous’ or wacky, Ms Namulekwa says that human beings should learn to communicate and accommodate one another. With the emergence of technology, she says, it can be as simple as forming a WhatsApp group for the neighbourhood. This will provide an avenue where everyone can relate and, in case a communal issue arises, solve it with ease.
“All in all, be friendly, conduct basic communication in a manner that isn’t intrusive. This will help curb situations in which we might unwillingly harbour criminals, but more importantly live in peace,” she concludes.