Summer survival: How neighbors can keep cool without throwing shade

With the misery mugginess can inspire, it’s no surprise that small misunderstandings can blow up into full-scale brawls on the block during the summer. At the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, we work to cultivate and maintain peaceful, respectful relations among neighbors. When hurtful words or actions threaten to rip apart the fabric of community, we try to help knit it back together.

philly_shot_fairmount(c)But there are steps that you can take on the front end that could help diffuse situations before they get too hot.  Here are some tips to consider as we enter the water ice-slurping season.  Like that perfect Philly treat, they can help everyone keep their cool.

  1. Mind Max
    High temperatures can be harmful to pets, especially dogs who may normally roam yards. But whether the windows are open or closed with the AC running, increased indoor barking can be disturbing as it travels through the walls. Likewise, your pup’s poop and pee tend to be even smellier in the heat. Stay on top of these matters to stay on the good side of fellow residents.
  1. Tackle that trash
    It could be sticky Popsicle wrappers or remnants of those steamed crabs. If it’s left to sit outside, uncovered, it won’t take long before bugs and other critters come to explore its contents. And let’s not forget the stench, because humid air makes smells hang even heavier. Don’t put your neighbors through that. Dispose of your waste properly – on the correct day of the week.
  2. Corral the kids
    We know – they have energy for days, and you want them outside so they don’t get on your nerves. But don’t let them get on someone else’s. Set play boundaries for them. Connect with your neighbors and try to create fair rules, like how to pursue those stray balls that go rolling into yards. Cut a deal with your kids on how loudly they can play and for how long. The sudden influx of squeals and arguing over who is “It” in a game of tag can puncture what had been a fairly quiet landscape just weeks before. That can be jarring, especially for retirees or people who work from home. Have a conversation on what consideration looks like and have them stick with it.
  3. Whack the weeds
    Nothing draws four-, six- and eight-legged undesirables like overgrown grasses, unkempt shrubs or other greenery run amok. Keeping your green space trimmed and under control will go a long way in maintaining harmony, from preventing contamination of your neighbor’s prized begonias to curbing pollen attacks, Just make sure your clippers and mowers stay on your side of the property line, and active only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., as per city code.
  4. Contain the cookout
    Many of us love those charcoal-infused flavors. But fewer of us love an invasion of smoke inside our homes from grills that are too high or close. Ditto diminished parking when someone decides to spread out their set up – grill, chairs, bar and all – in the street, and without notice. Give your neighbors a heads up by ringing their bell or dropping them a note to let them know of your plans. As a bonus move, ask them to bring a plate and join the festivities.
  5. Monitor the music
    J. Cole might be your stroll, but your neighbor may prefer J. Bach – or simple silence. Blasting your tunes may be tolerated during the day, but when the sun goes down, it’s a fine time to think about your neighbors. If the police are called to intervene, you could be cited for a ticket. Those can range up to $700 for repeat offenders. Don’t take the chance. Lower the volume.
  6. Share the spaces
    Parking in Philadelphia often comes at a premium, given its small streets, shared driveway configurations and the like. After working hard all day or slogging through streets on errands, most of us don’t want to return home to double-parked cars, cans, cones or other blockages to pulling in and getting in the house. No one owns spaces, but no one should hog them, either.
  7. Choose calm over chaos
    Scratched car. Trampled garden. Stolen lawn chair. Any of these are enough to set someone off. But before flying off the handle, get facts. After discovering the offender, see if you can speak with that person, or, in the case of a child, the parents. Listen first. Explain your concerns in a quiet manner. Try and negotiate with the other side. Work together and find a mutually agreeable repayment.  If the person is unresponsive or unreasonable, seek a third-party to intervene, such as a block captain – or us.

There is no magic bullet to squashing neighborhood beefs. But taking these steps can help address unresolved problems that simmer in the background and boil over when heat-induced frustrations rise.

Underneath most disputes is a lack of familiarity with or trust in one another. Use incidents to start or renew a relationship with your neighbor. Take the time to not only speak from your point of view, but to also listen to another’s.  Share ideas on how to prevent similar problems in the future and work toward common ground.

When all else fails, call the professionals here at (215) 686-4670. We can help mediate neighborhood disputes as well as train you how to better do the same.

After all, most of us would rather spend our summer relaxing – not fussing and fighting.

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