If you’ve recently moved into a new neighbourhood, initially it can be difficult to build relationships with people who have lived there for years. Professor Sandi Mann, qualified psychologist and lecturer at University of Central Lancaster (UCLAN) offers some strategies of making that first contact, most of which are based on the old-fashioned sense of community that used to be the norm:
- Smile! Every friendship starts with a simple smile. We are all guilty of having busy lives, so much so we forget to look up and give a simple smile to those walking by. A smile is the start of an interaction, it shows friendliness and signals to a neighbour you acknowledge them. This can then develop into a conversation and then a friendship.
- If you see your neighbours popping out of the house, head outside and have a casual chat with them. It’s the ideal opportunity as both you and your neighbour are in familiar ‘territory’ by staying on your side of the fence. A simple ‘hello, how are you?’ can be enough.
- Ask them for a favour. Can they take the delivery of a parcel, ask to lend a power tool or, once your feel like you know them well enough, you could ask them to hold a spare set of keys to your house. This will help build a relationship based on mutual trust.
- Take something with you when popping round for a chat. This could be your young child or your pet. This is a simple way to break the ice as it diverts the conversation to them. If your neighbours have small kids it may be nice to introduce them too, as it can sometimes be difficult for kids who move to a new area to make friends.
- Arrange an event in the local community and invite your local neighbours. It can be nice to get to know people in a social situation as people feel more relaxed. This allows you to offer hospitality without being patronising or putting them in an awkward situation.
- Check to see if there is a neighbourhood watch scheme area. If there is, this is a great way to get more involved in your community and meet neighbours who live close by. Coming together to tackle crime or suspicious behaviour is a great way to create a sense of togetherness.
- Introduce a Pay It Forward initiative in your community. This is where people are encouraged to do something nice for someone in the expectation that, instead of paying it back, they pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. In this way, kindness is spread across the community – and no one feels that they are the recipient of charity since everyone can carry out acts of kindness (examples include washing cars, running errands, baking cakes, sending get well cards, feeding pets etc).