One of the most exciting and sometimes difficult times in our lives is welcoming new people into our lives and eventually/sometimes having to say goodbye to them. If you think about it, one of the most common ways this happens is whenever a new neighbor moves into your neighborhood or community–or when an old neighbor (and sometimes friend) moves out. A similar and usually more frequent example in another setting is at the workplace–welcoming new co-workers and saying goodbye to them.
For this blog, I’ll be using the neighbor example to give you a few good ideas to consider. Like many things in life, there are good ways and bad ways to handle welcoming or saying goodbye to neighbors. When someone or a family moves into your community and suddenly becomes a regular, frequently seen face in your neighborhood, it’s a good idea to get to know them as soon as it’s convenient for you and for them. The reason why is simple, they would love to meet you and your family–as well as the whole neighborhood community and the sooner the better to feel welcome and part of their new neighborhood. Nothing is worse than moving anywhere and never getting to know your neighbors. You never feel this connection or enjoy the company of new friends if nobody makes the effort to initiate contact and it can start with a simple smile and a friendly “welcome to the neighborhood” gesture when you see them outside their home. Better yet, many people actually take the extra measure of buying a welcome basket or gift and bringing it over to say hello and introduce themselves to their new neighbors.
My family and I had a really nice experience a few years ago when we moved into a new neighborhood with big homes and long walks between the houses. The neighborhood association we moved into actually left at our doorstep a welcome basket with coffee, sweet treats, a welcome to the neighborhood note, and a directory of neighborhood services inside. My wife and I were astonished at the thoughtfulness! What a kind thing to do when strangers move next door. This simple act doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming for you—it’s more about the gesture than the actual goodies. My family felt welcomed the minute we moved in.
Another great idea when new neighbors move in is to walk up when they’re outside or go to their door and introduce yourself. This small gesture means a lot to people who don’t know anything about their new neighborhood. It gives them an opportunity to ask questions, like when is trash pickup day? or where’s the nearest supermarket? Sure, they can always Google it, but it’s much nicer to get the inside scoop from a new neighbor. It also opens the door to a potentially new long-term friendship! Another great idea to welcome new neighbors is to plan a neighborhood gathering or block party to say hello and meet all the neighbors in one place during a fun backyard BBQ or event.
One thing I’ve noticed about today’s society, we are often so disconnected with each other even if we’re physically located next door. It’s a shame that this has evolved into the new normal in many communities all over the world. I know there are still many communities out there that are welcoming and communicate regularly with neighbors. However, it seems to be more the exception than the rule. New neighbors can be a wonderful new addition to your neighborhood. People should make the effort to get to know new neighbors better–before it gets to be too late. It’s awkward to try establishing a new relationship with a neighbor you’ve had for over 2-3 years! Why not take the initiative and reach out to your new neighbor?
I’m an extrovert by nature. So this story tells you a little more about my personality and it’s also a great example of taking the initiative when you move into a new neighborhood that isn’t as welcoming as you hoped. Several years ago, my family and I moved from Atlanta to San Diego. We landed in the middle of a suburban community that kept to themselves, which I learned is a fairly common trait in San Diego. I really wanted to meet my neighbors to find out if anyone had children in the same age range as our young kids. I actually walked door-to-door and introduced myself and shared general details about my family—hoping neighbors would say they also had kids near our kid’s ages. It worked! We had several families with young kids living in the neighborhood and within a couple days, our kids were playing with theirs! It was a win-win for everyone to have this shared bond–and the sooner the better for new neighbors moving into a new neighborhood!
One bonus also of getting to know your new neighbors is that you’ll also have an opportunity to see for yourself if there are any neighbors that you should AVOID! Yes, I just said that. Unfortunately, not all neighbors are good neighbors. It would be so much better for new residents to find this out quickly, whether from talking to the good neighbors or meeting the bad ones to find out for yourself. There are any number of reasons that some neighbors won’t make good fits—but the sooner you find this out, the better.
Finally, I’d like to briefly blog about those tough times when you or a neighbor you’ve known & liked for many years decides to up and move away. Life happens. People and families grow both personally and professionally. Jobs, family or a combination of different factors can play a big part when a neighbor decides it’s time to move. It’s not easy for anyone involved especially if you’ve developed a strong relationship with your neighbor and losing them to a relocation.
This has happened to me over the years. Either I’ve had to move for a new job or a good neighbor has to move away. What I’ve found to be the best way to handle this is to let your favorite neighbors know right away, as soon as you’re sure it’s definitely going to happen. This gives your neighbor time to absorb the news and it gives you both time to make plans to hang out together more before the big move happens.
If your neighbor is someone special to you and your family, you should try to keep that friendship alive by exchanging contact information, visiting each other on vacations, and regularly talking by phone or online. Maintaining that connection is important to keep the friendship going. It’s never going to be the same, but at least the friendship isn’t gone forever. Again, it’s all about communication and thoughtfulness. Don’t expect your neighbor to keep in touch—hopefully they will. But if you value this friendship enough it shouldn’t matter who’s reaching out to who—as long as you’re reaching out.
Paul Brencick, President/Founder
Optimal Communications & Consulting