An introvert asks: How to deal with a neighbor who’s pushing the boundaries

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This wonderful comment by Bella is something I think all of us introverts can empathize with. I’m creating a new post from it so blog subscribers will see it and offer Bella some advice:

I am having a conflict with a neighbor over boundary issues. A few months ago, I was taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon, exhausted from work all week, and I hear voices outside. There she is with 6 other people, right off my deck. Later I asked her what they were doing there and she said they came to see the horses. I explained that I don’t want people showing up at my house on the weekends, when it’s my “home” time. She does not work and is home all week, I don’t care if she brings people over during that time frame, just don’t invade my space. She apologized.

So last Sunday I get a phone call from her — yes, napping again — asking if she and some friends can come over to pick up a bed from here. She started out with, “I know you don’t like people over on the weekends…” but then quickly added, “But Bill only has his truck here today”. I was mad but agreed, knowing I’d have to deal with it all again if I did not. She apologized the next day via email but discussing it further just made the whole thing worse, and now there are hard feelings on both sides. I get tired of explaining what seems like simple common courtesy to me. Really, you were just at church and felt inspired to come and get the bed afterward, and nobody knew in advance that that was the plan? I would like to cut her off totally but as we both live way out in the country, there are times when we will need one another’s help. Advice?

It’s a shame that although Bella tried being honest and explaining, the neighbor just didn’t seem to “get” it at all! I agree – she can’t just cut this neighbor off, because sometimes life does put us in a position where we must go to neighbors for help, especially when we’re far from the city. Any thoughts?

Photo credit: Yvonne in Willowick Ohio

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37 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention An introvert asks: How to deal with a neighbor who’s pushing the boundaries — Introvert Zone -- Topsy.com

  2. Oh, do I ever feel Bella’s pain. I lived the hell of an intrusive neighbor for something like eight years, afraid to assert myself because she was helpful in some ways and I knew if I tried to set boundaries she’d fly off the handle. I am very familiar with the “I know you BUT ” kinds of interruptions. She finally pushed to the point where we actually had an argument and ended contact, and you know what? Turns out we didn’t need her help after all, and life has been so much more peaceful since we ended our relationship with her. We no longer fear the phone ringing. We can go outside without being pounced on. Our yard is our own. Setting boundaries is hard and sometimes the person will flip out and be unreasonable but it’s worth it. And anybody except a true psycho would help you in an emergency even if you weren’t friendly anymore. I can’t stand my neighbor (and I think the feeling’s mutual) but if she truly needed help, I’d help her, and I think she’d do the same for me. But it’s HEAVEN to be free of the constant intrusions. Anyway, my thoughts are that Bella should try to gently set her boundaries now, before things get totally out of hand. She can try saying “no” to inconvenient requests, and just generally being unavailable. I hope she doesn’t make the same mistake I did, which was to offer vague hints and try to avoid this neighbor, while fuming inside at her pushy behavior, until things finally blew up in a way that maybe they wouldn’t have, had I asserted myself in the beginning.
    hermit@hermit loner’s place´s last post ..The Challenges of College and the good stuff too!

  3. I’ve never had issues with people coming over, although I have told most people I know that I like to know at least a day or two in advance before they want to come over. I have had issues with phone boundaries – people calling at obscure hours of the day (including family) and I just simply said to consider me a business, and this business is closed after 8pm and on weekends. It’s worked with most. People out in the country are usually more extroverted and harder to ward off though.
    Kristi´s last post ..Top 25 Blogging and Social Media Posts on Kikolani

  4. I can’t deal with the pop-ins like that. I can understand a person not “getting it,” to some degree, and I can understand someone being pressed for time and having to say “screw it” to decorum to get something done that needs doing, but all the same… my neighbors probably think I’m the quietest, surliest person alive.

  5. It’s true, people in the country are definitely more prone to pop over. I’ve had to learn to adjust to that, and with the other neighbors, I don’t mind a bit. There’s something about the way this woman does it that pushes my buttons. She seems to have a sense of entitlement about it, with some lack of consideration thrown in. She does laundry at my house because she doesn’t have hookups. I don’t mind letting her do that, the laundromat is horrific and expensive. But I had one simple rule: get it done before I get home, and don’t do it on weekends. I’m gone for 10 hours a day during the week, plenty of time for a stay-at-home person to work that in. But more than once I’ve come home to find her stuff in the washer, which means I can expect her to come back over, or have had her say “Oh, sorry, we got hung up at Walmart…”

    To me it seems like she figures “oh, sorry” will cover all ills, and there’s no need to change her behavior.

  6. It’s really too bad that some people just can’t understand, so they have to either be offended or running all over us. I usually hold new people at arms’ length so we don’t establish any habits I’m not going to want to live with in the future, but then they most likely do consider me one who “keeps to herself” and all the other things people say when someone goes to work and shoots up their office. :)

    In some cases with really stubborn or intrusive people, we may just have to live with offending them a little in order to set our boundaries. Otherwise we’re prisoners inside our homes as we try to work in the yard only when they’re not home, that sort of thing.

  7. That’s a tough call because it’s a touchy situation & one wrong comment could sour the relationship and make things 10 times worse. Since it’s being treated as a business / Home / Private property with hours mon-fri ONLY & weekends are off limits, I think that the best solution is to not say anything anymore & take action. by action, I mean that a fence line should be put up (at least around the home) and a latch-able / locking driveway gate. The gate should be left open during business hours & closed / locked during off hours. There should also be a big sign on the gate that clearly dictates the hours of operation.

    This solution will eliminate any further confrontation & establish the desired results of privacy during off times. If the previous verbal attempts to get some respectful understanding didn’t work, then a fence line with a gate & the hours in bold “WILL”. :)

  8. I had a problem with the neighbor kids playing right outside my bedroom window just after I came home from the hospital with my newborn baby. Every time I finally got the baby to sleep and started taking a much needed nap, the neighbor’s kids would feel the need to play in my yard right under my window. My own kids were inside playing quietly and not bothering me. I went out and told the kids sternly not to play in my yard and 4 years later they stay away from me and my yard. I think they are afraid of me and see me as the mean neighbor. I think even an extrovert would have reacted the way I did, but I do feel bad that the kids are scared of me now. If I were you I would post a sign by your horses. Maybe when visiting hours are or something like that. Back in the old days people would hand out calling cards with the times they were accepting visitors. I guess we don’t do that now because of the phone, but it would sure be nice.

  9. /agree with CB’s comment. You can always print out articles from this site and others explaining what an introvert is, too, and hand them to her. Maybe, just maybe, she really doesn’t get it and a little understanding will push her into Gosh I’m So Sorry I Didn’t Realize-land.

    It’s important to remember that if someone is refusing to honor your boundaries, it is they who are being rude, not you by insisting on being treated with respect. A Couchsurfing friend of mine recently told me about a rude guest (1st one ever, btw — CS is amazing and fantastic!) who, when asked to take his bags with him as he left for a cycling trip around the area, told my friend that he was “…putting him in an awkward position.” This was well after the guest’s agreed to, and ignored, departure time, mind you. My friend felt guilty and capitulated, let him keep the bags there, and ended up leaving him a brief, neutral reference. After we talked, however, and I pointed out that the guest was the a-hole, he agreed, filled in the details, and changed the reference to negative — lest any other hosts fall prey to this guy’s disrespectful ways.

    Also, I don’t think you’re going to get proper separation from this person as long as you are granting her access to your space while you are not there. “I’m sorry, but this arrangement is not working for me. You’re going to have to find another place to do laundry.” And be firm. IT’S NOT YOUR PROBLEM and IT’S NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. You are responsible for YOUR life and YOUR happiness, no one else. What if you weren’t there to solve this problem for her? She’s an adult. She can find a solution. If she gets mad, it’s a reflection on her, not on you. Other, more considerate people, wouldn’t and don’t do that. She needs to back the eff off, but she’ll only do it if you are clear, firm, and consistent.

    Seeing how this article has had some time to simmer, has anything changed? Update, please! …and best of luck. You deserve your privacy. :)
    Katrina@TourAbsurd.com´s last post ..Cork-surfers

  10. I think in everyday of our lives, we should respect other people’s privacy in a way that we want them to respect our privacy. Pesky and meddling neighbors are always irritating but the best we can do is to talk to them and let them understand the reason why we don’t want them interfering with our peaceful afternoon naps. I admire her neighbor though despite all that because she really asked for a permission and an apology.

  11. I am glad I ran into this site. My situation is a little different but I have two good friends that are rather clingy and they remind me a lot of the neighbor you wrote about.
    They are the type of people that would want to spend time together almost on a daily basis and that pack quite a punch psychologically for me like most people on here..
    One of the worst case scenario is when I do not feel like interacting with others but my friends would try to call me over 5 times in a row followed by a text message. Even that act alone makes me feel uneasy/stressed followed by a overwhelming drained feeling.
    However, I do realize that is their way of recharging their battery after a long day of work or whatever they do throughout the day so I would just tell myself that im going to have a good time and just go with it for most part because I too would like to keep my social interactions healthy. But I learned from this site that its just simply not worth going over your limit just to please your friends or act on their whim all the time.
    Its quite a challenge to keeping friends that are demanding or clingy. But without them I would not be where I am now so I do appreciate them for sticking around with me for many years.
    I realized that You just have to do what you gotta do to keep yourself and your friendship/relationships healthy and just hope that your friends or loved ones will understand, and if not then that just means that friendship would of not worked out anyway. After all, your life is yours to create.

  12. Courtney@celebrate_differences on

    After reading your post I experienced so many mixed emotions. I am an extrovert who it appears, has offended a neighbor. Your post caused me to reflect, and I feel the regret of having lost the friendship of my neighbor.

    I also felt that the post and comments were biased & somewhat unfair, painting introvert as “good” & extrovert as “bad.” Most conflicts are 2 sided & stem from misunderstanding on both sides, neither side being fully “right” or fully “wrong”.

    I have a dear friend who is introverted, when she needs more space and time, she clearly and lovingly lets me know, there is no mystery, no reverse judgement, and after 15 years, no hurt feelings. We celebrate our differences, and she also makes choices to meet me halfway.

    With the neighbor, I somehow screwed up, and the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. They moved from another town and didn’t know any body, I wanted them to feel welcome. They came from a northern state to the south, where not welcoming people is considered rude (that doesn’t mean that I think another way to see it is wrong, my in-laws are all from the north and we’ve figured out a happy medium of acceptance!).

    I saw very quickly, that my neighbors were more introverted and perhaps private. I tried to back off and there was 1 complicating factor: my very young extroverted children.

    If we were in the yard when our neighbors drove up, my children ran excitedly to
    the fence (we do not have a back yard, only a fenced in front yard). The couple seemed welcoming, but I knew they must’ve felt attacked. I would discourage my kids from running over, but like I said they are very young and enthusiastic. When I called them back the neighbors with say “no no no its okay,” and then I was stuck and they were stuck. My daughter begged me to let her go visit them, and they exchanged a few fun notes, but I could feel the unease beginning to grow.

    What feels unfair, is that they would not or could not establish clear boundaries. So I had to guess what they needed and establish them myself. In the absence of their communication, I had to very bluntly say to my children, we need to leave them alone.

    How confusing is that to a child? I don’t mind teaching them about boundaries, and that is very hard to do in the city, with only a short fence separating our yards. Soon I was the one avoiding the yard (until after they went in the house) so that my kids would not bug them – - this is the same situation that some of your readers found themselves in (avoidance) and it led to resentment. I have struggled with those same feelings.

    The neighbors who lived there before had twin girls who came to the fence all the time. The girls hopped over both sides and played together. My children lost playmates when they moved so it was already OUR practice to use the fence as a greeting.

    As an extreme extrovert myself I know I have added to the mix because when we all relax and talk I always seem to say something out of turn or too personal. That is how I am and I WORK ON IT, I also make mistakes.

    Do introverts never walk away from a situation and say, “Oh, I could’ve handled that better or gone out of my comfort zone to meet that person half way?” it seems that that is a human experience, for introverts and extroverts alike.

    I have feelings (and regrets and ways I want to change) and may feel uncomfortable, too. Sometimes I talk more because I AM nervous or want to be friendly. It doesn’t mean I don’t care if the other person is comfortable, sometimes it means I can’t read minds and know what the listener wants!

    I do my very best to just leave them be, mostly without judgement (I wouldn’t want to be judged in reverse and I believe that they don’t have to justify their relationship choices to me). Just as a person, though, it hurts sometimes or I think, “Could this have been different?”

    We lived our distant lives until they had a baby who has grown into a (drumroll) extreme extrovert. Now their child runs to the fence to greet us, even when my kids are not home and I am just relaxing on my porch! She will say, ‘big kids? big kids?’

    What a mess – so now I am in the awkward position, I guess we all are. Their child screams early in the morning and laughs and plays and wants to be in our yard, on our toys, and in our house – we love it! I’m sorry that their parents are uncomfortable, they have asked us to watch her for a few minutes at a time while they took care of short errands around the house, we’ve been happy to oblige.

    Not all extroverts are oblivious, disrespectful people. I need a chance to KNOW what behaviors are hurtful, especially when my behaviors are practiced with a motivation of friendship, welcome, and openness. I can’t help but wonder if the extrovert(s) in this story or in your experiences tried to express THEIR hurt feelings in return, would they get a sympathetic response?

    • Sounds like you are trying to do the right thing and that is the most important thing. Yes, this introvert constantly question her reactions; probably too much. When one feels that a neighbor has taken over and they don’t “get it”, I will cut them off. Some just don’t get it. It sounds like you are fairly sensitive, though, and want to do the right thing or you wouldn’t have taken the time to write. Seek and we shall find.

  13. Reemah@Montgomery County DUI Attorney on

    That’s a tough one. Hmm, just explain your side and hear her side and see what happens. It’s just a matter of patience in settling issues between the both of you. Good luck with that, hope everything will be alright and be back to normal. :)

  14. I have major problems with boundary issues. I moved to Hungary 10 years ago and they have a totally different mentality to personal space than we do in England (“An Englishman’s house is his castle” and all that).

    I find it really infuriating, and just have to retreat when people do not respect my boundaries. They think me rude but I don’t care because my personal space is so precious to me.
    Charles Somer from Alcoholism Help´s last post ..Dec 13- Alcoholism Forums The Best on the Web

  15. I live in a place where personal space is virtually unheard of. It was very bad for an introvert like me at first but I grew to accept it over time. In this situation, it was better for me to adapt to my surroundings rather than to expect people to adapt to me.

  16. Sometimes, we can’t really avoid those kinds of people because even though, how many times we get rid of them in our way, there are still time that we will going to meet them anywhere. Sometimes, it happen accidentally but mostly it happen because they need our help or we need their help. For me, you just need to be with yourself, entertain them as much as possible and never feel bad to that. Remember! We can’t avoid them but we can minimize to be with them.

  17. Actually your problem is very common. It is better for you to explain clearly to your neighbour what you do not like about his/her behaviours. Maybe he/she don’t understand what you really mean at the first time you told him/her your concerns. I know that misunderstandings can lead to worst conflicts if not solve immediately.
    Anelli Xavier´s last post ..New Test Post

  18. I had several college dormmates who never learned boundaries. My second roommate foolishly left her keys in the door (claiming that she would lose them if she didn’t), so girls from our hall let themselves into our room whenever it suited them. It drove me insane, and that’s one of the reasons why she moved out. My roommate left to go visit someone else in the dorm that night. Her friend knocked on the door, and I was so fed up that I ignored her. The girl actually used my roommate’s key to let herself in and looked furious when she realize that I hadn’t let her in on purpose. She actually had the nerve to sarcastically say “Sorry I bothered you!” and slam the door on her way out.

    After that incident, people rarely visited our room- and when they did, they were very respectful and never stayed for long. Hehehe, an even fewer number of people came after my roommate moved out.

  19. JohnPautz@Car Carrier on

    This is a kind of situation where in you can just snap out of your mind. I felt how Bella is reacting to this but hey! there are really people who are playing naive, or just simply stubborn to make your life a hell! We all want some peace and quite but then again in some extent you are right, we all need our neighbors somehow it may be difficult but it is true.
    JohnPautz@Car Carrier´s last post ..Hello world!

  20. In these situations we are not able to control us and we get quarrel with neighbor, but as you told that you both helping each other when ever you need, that is nice, true neighbor help each other. yes it is tough to tolerate the disturbance from neighbor on weekend when we are resting after busy weekend. have you notice this kind of disturbance only for small time if we adjust at time. It will make nice bonding between neighbors.

  21. Always remember that you have a choice to pick up the phone or answer the door. My advice is to let the phone go to voicemail. Call her back when you are ready and can handle her request… that may mean Monday… or Tuesday

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  24. This is why I prefer living in the country. The nearest neighbor is a mile away and there is no random dropping by, unwanted conversations, nosiness, and all around intrusive behavior. If my “neighbor” drops by, it’s relatively important. I like to keep to myself and don’t like feigning interest in someone’s new geranium plant or saying hello to their kids every time I walk out my door. Call me a hermit, rude, or whatever, but I have a peaceful life uninterrupted by unwanted social advances. I do not mind a wave hello or a bit of none descript commentary about the weather, but I don’t want to hear about someone’s personal life or plans for the week etc. I’m much more of a wave, “How are you? Ok good to see ya” and move on kind of person. Cordial, but not too invested. Obviously if I noticed a problem I would call the cops or even check on them, but I have no desire to be besties with my neighbor.

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