5 Easy Steps to Breaking the Ice with Your NeighborsSeptember 25, 2017
Whether you just moved into a new neighborhood, noticed a few moving vans on your block or suddenly realized you do not really know anyone in your community, breaking the ice with the neighbors is never an easy task. Letting it happen “naturally” often means nothing happens for weeks, even months. But going door-to-door introducing yourself requires a lot of confidence, and who has time to write a personalized letter to every family on the block? Why not take the stress out of the process and follow these easy steps to breaking the ice with the neighbors.
Join your neighborhood’s digital community
If you are not the kind of person who feels comfortable meeting strangers face-to-face, introducing yourself online is a great alternative. Most cities and towns have public pages on social media sites like Facebook where neighbors chat about local issues and events. Introducing yourself and your family on these forums as new or previously under-involved residents of the area will prompt at least a few welcoming responses that could turn into a friendly conversation. And making informed comments on message boards about local issues allows others to learn more about you and possibly reach out to form a connection.
While general social media sites can be useful, a recently-developed site geared specifically towards neighbors and communities called Nextdoor is becoming popular throughout the U.S. This social network is designed to help residents of communities connect with one another, share information and publicize issues and events within the neighborhood. The registration process is rigorous in terms of both a user’s identity and their address to avoid non-residents entering neighborhood forums, but once a member, users can post information involving crime, personal or local needs, recommendations and even lost pets.
Meet your neighbors one-on-one
Once you have built up your presence on local online forums and pages, it can actually be a lot easier to befriend your neighbors face-to-face. If you make yourself available in-person to your fellow community members, that is. This does not have to mean attending neighborhood meetings or going door to door introducing yourself—unless of course that is your style! But in order to break the ice with your neighbors, you have to give them the opportunity to interact with you.
What this really means is simple: be around and be approachable. If you have a pet—especially a dog—walk them when you know there will be a good amount of foot traffic in your area. Take a long, leisurely walk around your neighborhood. And when your neighbors and your dog become instant friends—which you know they will—chat them up. This strategy can work with or without the adorable animal. What is most important is that you are approachable. Ditch the headphones, leave the bluetooth at home and make eye contact with people as they pass to show them you are open to conversation.
Be, you know, neighborly
The best thing about being part of a community is the camaraderie. And showing your neighborhood that you are willing to lend a hand is a wonderful way to build it. Offer to help your next door neighbor carry a piece of furniture into their house; mow the lawn of the elderly couple down the block; or volunteer at the neighborhood garage sale. Breaking the ice with the neighbors could be as simple as making a great impression and garnering some good will in your community. Bonus: Who does not feel great being of service to others?
Join a team, any team
It is always a great idea to make a strong first impression, but truly befriending the neighbors means being friends with your neighbors. And this requires more than a brief conversation once a week and lending them a cup of flour. So it is time to get involved in your community in whatever way most appeals to you.
Most people think “getting involved” means joining the PTA or the Neighborhood Watch Association. And, for many concerned and active citizens, it does. But for those of us with less political interests, being involved in our community might look a little different. You could join a community book club, running alliance or intramural sport team. If you live in a master-planned community near a golf course, this is a perfect time to learn the game or dust off those clubs in order to meet new people. You could volunteer for your local religious institution or even form a club or team for an activity or issue you are passionate about.
Not only are you being active and breaking the ice with your neighbors through these channels, you are also allowing them to learn more about you. And you are connecting with those in your community with whom you have at least two things in common—your neighborhood and your shared interest. You are also guaranteeing frequent, scheduled contact with your neighbors. It is almost impossible not to strengthen your bonds within the community. VolunteerMatch is an excellent place to start looking for opportunities in a variety of areas.
Throw a considerate party
Lots of guides will tell you to host a Welcome to the Block party or a Meet and Greet to break the ice with your neighbors, but better sense says hold off until you know them a little better. Inviting everyone on your block to your home for even a casual party moments after meeting them is terrifying for most, and, second, awkward for most. Perhaps people do show up, but under a sense of obligation. That is no good. Or maybe no one shows up at all because they feel uncomfortable or uninvested. That is the worst.
In most cases, your block party will be a hit after you have had a chance to deliberately and casually introduce yourself to your community and invest in it and in your neighbors. Your neighbors will know you and, hopefully, will have spent some time with you. Everyone will feel more comfortable and less awkward. And you could still make new, deeper connections with members of your community you might be less intimate with. It is a win-win.
You might start with informal events like a football watching party, when socialization is implied but not the purpose. You might also need to consider any younger guests and plan events that include them.
Share this blog with all the new friends you have made on your block by reading it!