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Should you confront your neighbours about their annoying habits?

Annoying neighbours are, sadly, a fact of life. In a recent survey of 2000 people a tenth admitted to having feuded for more than 4 years with one of their neighbours. Noisy late night parties, blocked driveways and unsightly fences have set teeth grinding and blood pressure rocketing all over the country.

Many choose to suffer in silence, only complaining about the situation to family and friends. Some go down the route of passive aggressive retaliation – putting the tumble dryer on when the culprits are likely to be in bed, mowing the lawn at 8am on a Saturday or putting an anonymous note through the letterbox. A handful of people take action, going directly to the source of annoyance and confronting their irritating neighbour.

Should you talk to your problem neighbour? The British public are notoriously reluctant to engage in confrontation, particularly when it comes to someone as close as Mr and Mrs Next Door. The media loves to scare us with horror stories of nightmare neighbours launching a campaign of terror after a friendly chat went wrong.

Sometimes, however, a polite conversation is the best way to diffuse the situation. It may well be that the neighbour in question has no idea that their behaviour has been affecting you and is happy to change their annoying habits. First determine whether the problem is a real issue or whether you’re being a little irrational. For example, new parents don’t need reminding that their baby is crying all night – they can’t do much about it, and are just as desperate as you for a night of uninterrupted sleep.

If you’ve decided that your neighbour’s behaviour is both unreasonable and within their control it’s time to confront them. Under no circumstances should you leave a note. Regardless of how witty or polite it may sound to you, the recipient probably won’t see it that way and they’ll be less likely to stop their annoying habit. It might be possible to bring up your concern in a friendly face-to-face chat. Keep it short and casual as this gives both parties the freedom to walk away from the situation if things become uncomfortable.

This is fine if you know your neighbours, even just by sight, but if you've had no contact before there's a chance you could be confronting someone with a temper or creating an uncomfortable situation. Choose your battles wisely: one loud party is not enough to prompt an all-out feud. If you do want to address an issue, don't go in all guns blazing: should you feel yourself becoming irate take a deep breath and give yourself a few moments to think before you speak. If you are met with anger, try to remain calm as this leaves the door open for them to come back and apologise later – and they’ll be more inclined to curb their bad behaviour. Shouting back at them just gives them a reason to justify their annoying habits.

Thankfully most neighbour confrontations, when handled in the right way, are resolved peacefully and calmly. But negotiations occasionally do end in tears. If all else fails, fight fire with fire: turn up the volume on your stereo and find tumble dryers at