I’m new to the area and therefore my apartment building. I’m nervous about meeting my neighbors. How do I break the ice? – Connie in Palmer, AK
Lots of people feel nervous about meeting new people. Neighbors, co-workers, gym members, or anyone who participates in a shared activity are all waiting for the other person to make the first move. You can start by stretching your comfort level. Around your complex, greet everyone with a smile and kind word. Strike up a conversation when the opportunities present themselves. Getting your mail, going to the pool, or taking care of laundry are things everyone does. Say hello to the people you encounter and ask how their day is going. Let them know you are new to the area and ask them if they can recommend a good restaurant in the area, or a favorite activity. This will help initiate a conversation, because most people enjoy sharing their opinions and being helpful.
Next, step it up a notch and knock on your neighbor’s door. Bring a note with your name, unit number, and cell. Introduce yourself, and give them the note with your contact information. Be respectful of their time, though. If they seem rushed or busy, thank them and let them get back to their pursuits. On the other hand, if they are talkative, ask them for recommendations about their favorite places in the area. Make a note on your phone so you can check out their suggestions. This demonstrates your genuine interest in their tips, and gives you a point of reference for a future conversation.
Take the time to seek out one or two of your neighbor’s favorites in the coming week. Then when you encounter them around the complex, thank them for the 411, and let them know you went there. It’s a great way to explore your new area and build a cordial relationship with your neighbors.
If you are struggling to put yourself out there, here are two tricks that can help you get comfortable with meeting your neighbors. First, run through the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, and the most likely scenario. In the worst case, you knock on their door and they open it screaming, What do you want?!” While super off-putting, it’s not the end of the world. Politely apologize for disturbing them, briefly introduce yourself, thank them, and say goodbye. In a best case scenario, you discover they are your BFF from grade school who had moved away. Get ready for a rocking girls night out to catch up.
The most likely scenario is either they won’t be home and you’ll have to try again, or they will exchange polite and brief introductions with you. In the latter, they will probably have a few choice endorsements of local eateries, shops, or activities. You’ll make your notes, thank them, and say goodbye. It’s done, and you can put a face to a name when you see each other out and about.
As the weeks go by, continue to greet everyone you encounter with a smile and hello. If you have an onsite gym, pool, or activity center, go and take part. There may even be micro complex community events you can attend, and even volunteer to help. Seize every opportunity to meet your larger group of neighbors and spark a conversation. Soon you’ll feel right at home, and may have found some new friends in the process.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.