Thinking of striking back at your loud neighbors? Not all noisy neighbors are alike. Identify the type of neighbor you're dealing with.
The noise from your loud neighbors is unbearable. You're thinking maybe it's time they had a taste of their own medicine. Turn the tables on them and see how they like it! Maybe it will make them think twice about inflicting their noise on other people.
There's some definite truth in this. In order to communicate effectively with people, you need to speak their language. If you speak calmly, reasonably, and maturely about the problems their noise causes you, some people will readily hear your message and respond in kind, and you're well on the way to a good solution. But with other people, your carefully chosen, well-mannered words will simply not register — it's as though you're speaking a foreign language. In order to get your message across, you need to use a language they understand. Maybe blasting your favorite bagpipe music when they're finally winding down and trying to sleep? Maybe releasing a wretchedly foul-smelling odor into their yard during one of their loud, late-night outdoor parties?
When is this kind of approach most likely to be successful in getting loud neighbors to reduce their noise? To answer this question, let's look at some of the different types of noisy neighbors you might have.
Types of Noisy Neighbors
Angels: Sweet, kind-hearted, and respectful, the only reason their noise would ever disturb you is that they don't realize you can hear it. A polite hint from you is all that's needed; they will be mortified at the suggestion that you have overheard some of their noise and will make sure not to let it happen again.
Earnest Strivers: These are people who are living as quietly as they can reasonably be expected to, but their noise still carries. They may feel bad about it but they feel there is not much more they can do. Often this is the case when they live on the other side of a paper-thin wall from you — you can hear their every move as though they're in the same room with you. The problem is not your neighbor but the structure of the building you both live in. Parents struggling with a new baby might also fall in this category — despite their best loving (and exhausted) efforts, babies do cry sometimes.
The Clueless: These people are nice enough, often quite friendly even, but are clueless about the level of annoyance noise can cause, or they just don't remember to keep it down when they are drunk or partying. Teenagers are sometimes in this category; also sweet old ladies who are partially deaf and have the TV blaring so they can hear it.
Asserters: These are people from an assertiveness culture, meaning that they go about their normal lives and expect that if they're bothering you you'll let them know about it, perhaps by pounding on the ceiling or wall or yelling an obscenity at them, at which point they'll tone it down, with no grand emotion or drama. This is a stereotypical image of a New York City apartment dweller.
The Entitled: These are folks who firmly believe that they are entitled to make as much noise as they please, and they are not going to let other people's complaints get in the way of their right to have a good time on their own property.
Bullies actively relish the thought of annoying you, aggressively trying to dominate you with their noise. They may even goad you into complaining about their noise and then "reward" you with more of it.
Psychotics: These are mentally unbalanced people who may react to your noise complaint in unexpected, perhaps even violent, ways. There are cases of people who have actually
murdered a neighbor
who knocked on the door to ask that they keep the noise down.
Once we see the range of different types of loud neighbors there are, it's clear that an approach that might work well for one of these types can be completely ineffective with the others, and can even backfire and make the problem worse. It's useful to try to identify which type of noisemaker you're dealing with before you choose your next tactic.
Should You Strike Back?
If you're thinking of striking back, of giving your loud neighbors a "taste of their own medicine," which types of neighbors could this tactic work well with? Let's go back through the list:
For Types 1 and 2 (Angels and Earnest Strivers), this approach is almost certainly inappropriate and is unlikely to resolve your problem; in fact it will probably win you a reputation for being a nasty neighbor yourself.
In some situations, Types 3 and 4 (Clueless and Asserters) may respond to your tactic. However, with these folks a simple, direct approach will often give better results, and will likely earn you their respect as well, which will lay the groundwork for successful resolutions to any future problems you might have with them.
Type 5, the Entitled, might be the best candidates for your scheme. While they may have no interest in your problems or your rights, they might take notice when your actions spoil their fun. Be careful here, though — there can be a fine line between a Type 5 Entitled and a Type 6 Bully, so if you think it's possible you might have a Bully on your hands, think twice before launching your attack.
With a Type 6 Bully your idea is likely to backfire on you. If you play the escalation game with someone who has no scruples, you're the one who's bound to lose in the end.
With a Type 7 Psychotic this approach is downright dangerous. It's no exaggeration to say that you could be risking your life in any confrontational dealings with a deranged person. Let the police handle them.
To steer matters toward the happiest outcome for yourself, first see if you can identify what kind of neighbor you're dealing with, and then plan an approach that is appropriate for that particular kind of person.
While you're formulating
for dealing with your loud neighbors, there are measures you can take in the meantime to deal directly with the noise problem and keep your sanity.
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