Ask Abbie: How to deal peacefully with a noisy neighbor

Published 10:31 am Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By Abbie Long

Question: My neighbor is so noisy. I live downstairs and she lives upstairs. She is either always playing loud music, running on her treadmill or enjoying the company of various men. I have tried beating on the ceiling with a broom handle to let her know the noise travels but nothing has changed. I really hate confrontation but I guess I am going to have to talk to her. How is the best way I should go about it? I need my peace of mind and sleep back especially on early workdays!

Answer: One use for a broom handle is for witches to sit atop and use as a method of transportation. Another is for a lonely dancer to use as a make-shift partner. A tenant, who is frustrated with a noisy upstairs neighbor, can also use one to beat on the ceiling as a way to get the inconsiderate neighbor to be quiet. The witch’s and dancer’s uses for their brooms achieve their purposes. The tenant’s use for his broom, although well-intended, does not achieve his purpose unless he thinks by creating a “holy” ceiling God will feel honored and intervene for him.

Less structurally damaging ideas to help you elevate your initiative and restore your peace of mind and sleep include: The Confrontation Approach and The Third Party Handoff Approach. The Confrontation Approach should be tried first because it provides the greatest opportunity for the most effective and immediate solution to your problem. The Third Party Handoff Approach is for adoption as a back-up plan or if you find it impossible to approach your noisy neighbor in a calm and assertive manner.

The Confrontation: The best time to approach your noisy neighbor is at a time when you are not bothered by her noise. If you approach her while upset you are more likely to lose the calm assertive tone you must maintain in order to be most effective. As you prepare for The Confrontation, keep in mind you are only trying to let your neighbor know “I’m cool with what you want to do like run on the treadmill and party, but could we please figure out a better time for those things to occur?” This non-judgmental form of approach toward her choice of lifestyle lessens your chance for her to become defensive throughout and after your conversation.

During The Confrontation, let her know you are sure she has no idea how thin the walls are. Next, inform her of the effects her decisions are having on your job performance from lack of sleep and on your in-home projects from being unable to concentrate over the noise. Be sure to mention the uncomfortable environment being created for your overnight guests as a result of their bedroom’s proximity to hers. When you place the focus of this potentially embarrassing complaint on your guests instead of on yourself she will be less likely to feel judged and become defensive. Speak only in truth and you will have no regrets.

Make sure to leave your neighbor with the overall impression the issues you have with her noise lie more with you than with her and that you are only interested in getting some much needed rest and peace of mind. If after The Confrontation you do not hear an immediate change in your neighbor’s noise level or if any change fades back to its original status proceed to The Third Party Handoff option.

The Third Party Handoff: Inform your landlord of the situation. He will then send your neighbor a letter notifying her of an anonymous complaint. In that letter, he will let her know she needs to keep her noise to a reasonable minimum. More than likely your lease contains a clause defining proper noise conduct for living in an apartment. If so, your landlord’s letter should reference this as well. Usually when a tenant is informed she is in violation of the terms of a lease she will change her behavior.

Your current noisy neighbor situation is giving you an opportunity to practice remaining persistent, confident, calm and assertive throughout personal confrontation. The more you develop this skill the easier and more effective future confrontations such as negotiating the purchase of a car, asking for a raise, or standing up to a friend or family member who is trying to take advantage of you will become. Reserve your broom for its original purpose. One day soon you will be able to open your doors, raise your windows, and sweep to the peaceful sounds of nature rather than to the disturbing sounds of your neighbor.