Know (and Talk to) Your Neighbor
Humboldt County permits are in progress, and your neighbors may get a say before yours is approved. Some projects will come before a public hearing automatically, and some require your neighbors be notified of the project. At a public hearing, your neighbors (and other members of the public) may come to protest the offering of your permit, similar to the Garberville depot last month.
What can you do? Public hearings are not easy, but knowing what to expect will help. Once your permit is nearing approval, talk to your agent or your planner about what the hearing and noticing requirements are for your project (if they haven't already told you).
Should you wait until the public hearing to listen to your neighbors' concerns? That is ultimately up to whomever is applying. If you do decide to talk to your neighbors beforehand, we found helpful advice on preventing conflict and maintaining "peaceful coexistence" with neighbors from the City of Beaverton, Oregon.
Don’t Assume That Discussing a Problem Will Aggravate Your Neighbor. Your neighbors can’t help resolve a problem they don’t know exists. Your conversation will go better than you think if your focus is on: learning rather than delivering a message, understanding and acknowledgement rather than blame, joint problem solving rather than who is at fault. Time and time again, we’ve found that neighbors are not aware that their actions are negatively affecting others. Usually, people are willing to make changes if you approach them respectfully.
Don’t Assume You know Your Neighbors’ Intentions. If your neighbor does something that irritates you, don’t assume that it was done on purpose. Presume the neighbor doesn’t know about the annoyance. Giving them the benefit of the doubt will make it easier for you to talk about the situation.
Don’t Wait to Talk about Things that Bother You. If your neighbor does something that bothers you, let them know. By communicating early and calmly, you take a big step forward toward resolving the problem. Don’t wait until a minor irritation becomes a major issue and makes it difficult to discuss.
Separate the Person from the Problem. Conflict is inevitable whenever two or more people interact with one another. It occurs because we are all unique individuals with different perspectives, values and needs. Focusing on the issue will allow you to take care of the problem while maintaining or improving your relationship with your neighbor.
Be Respectful. Talk directly with the neighbor involved with the problem. Don’t gossip or spread rumors with other neighbors. Gossip damages relationships and can hurt other people. Problem solving is only possible when we treat each other with respect.
Be Calm. If a neighbor approaches you accusingly about a difficulty, listen carefully and thank them for telling you how they feel. You don’t have to agree or justify your behavior. If you can listen and not react defensively, then their anger will subside, the lines of communication will remain open, and there is a good chance of working things out.
Listen Well. When you discuss a problem, try to understand how your neighbor feels about an issue and why. Understanding, which is not the same as agreeing, will increase the likelihood of a solution that works for you both. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to clarify your understanding of their view of the problem.
If Things Get Heated, Take a Break. If you need to, take a break to calm down and think about what you and your neighbor have discussed. Arrange a time to finish the conversation later, and then do so. It’s hard to problem solve when you are having a heated discussion.
Constructive communication can resolve conflict, and talking things over directly is the best way to handle problems, and avoid enforcement or the courts. Read the rest of the tips about peacefully coexisting with your neighbors.