Difficult conversations

When you need to speak to a neighbour, prepare yourself in advance.

Be prepared

  • first of all, get your facts in order, so you know what options are available to both you and your neighbours
  • try and think what questions or points of view your neighbour will have
  • practice what you will say using positive words and suggesting ideal solutions that are to everyone's benefit - rehearse it with a friend and ask what their reaction would be

When you actually meet

  • practice 'active listening' - maintain eye contact, acknowledge what your neighbour says by e.g. nodding your head, but don't interrupt; when a person has finished speaking, sum up what they have said in your own words and let the other person agree or disagree that you have got it right
  • in explaining the impact of the problem on you, try to stay calm and friendly, and avoiding using blaming words, name-calling, and threats
  • if the conversation gets heated, take a break - return to it again when you are both calm
  • use phrases such as "would you be willing to consider..."

Avoid being confrontational

Rather than...

"You're dumping stuff on the stairs and it's a fire risk. You are ignorant and it's going to get us all killed if someone sets light to this! I want it moved right now or I'm going to call the council."

Be informative and make useful suggestions...

"You may not realise but it's important that the stairs are kept clear as they are our only means of escape in a fire. Do you think you could keep the stuff in your flat until you can get rid of it properly?"

Avoid being threatening

Rather than...

"My flat is getting ruined because you won't pay your share of the roof repair cost. I'm going to take you to court!"

Ask or offer help...

"I just wanted to ask if you needed more information about the roof repair or if there was anything that was worrying you about it? It's important that we get it done as soon as possible as it's causing more damage every day."

"I'm sure you are aware that we all need to pay our share of repair costs. In fact, according to the law, none of us can say “No”. I've found this website that has got some useful tips about repairing tenements and I wondered if you wanted me to give you the details?"

Avoid being abusive

Rather than...

"Only a numpty could think…"

Be more sympathetic

"We would all love it if that were the case but sadly…."

Group communication tools and techniques

If you want to deal with difficult problems with a number of co-owners together, then our articles on communication tools and techniques has some additional ideas you can use.

Communication tools and techniques