When it comes to day-to-day interactions, I’m a tremendously shy, introverted person. Even the friendliest of people intimidate me. If it were up to me, I would never have to meet new people, and I would never even see my neighbors. However, that’s not the way life works, and there are some very good reasons to make friends with your neighbors. There may come a time when you need someone to feed your fish, or need to borrow a cup of sugar, or your car won’t start and you need someone to jump start it (or, you know, you may just want a friend). Here are a few things you can do to be friendly with your neighbors without overwhelming your introvert soul.
Become a dog person.
There’s nothing a dog owner loves more than their dog, so when they meet someone else who loves their dog, they love that person by association. If you’re terrified of dogs or actively dislike them, this tip isn’t for you, but if you’re just not usually a dog person, start acting like you are. The best and easiest way I’ve gotten to know my neighbors is by petting their dogs. When I see a pup on a walk, I just smile and ask if he’s friendly. You don’t even have to talk with the owner much—just coo over the dog and ask its name. Now, the next time you see that particular neighbor, ask how Fido is. Bam. Instant friendship.
(My friend, the owner of a great chocolate lab, has confirmed this tip. “It doesn’t matter who it is—if they’re nice to Brownie, I automatically like them.”)
Or “Good morning.” Or “How are you?” The point here is, actually speak to your neighbors when you see them. This may seem strange or stressful to the people on the farthest end of the introvert scale, but trust me, you should try it. There’s nothing wrong with just giving your neighbors a smile and a nod hello instead of saying anything (this always used to be my default), but the problem is, this doesn’t really help you get to know them. Having an actual verbal interaction will help you form a real relationship with your neighbors, even if all you say is “Hi, how are you?” Eventually, you’ll get into the habit of making these little exchanges each time you see each other, and before you know it, you’ll end up having an honest-to-god conversation without even realizing it.
It’s a lot harder to get to know your neighbors when you never go outside. If you want to make friends with people, you actually have to be in the same place as them. Taking daily walks is great way to make yourself available for the chance to interact with people. Try to spend 15 or 20 minutes each day on a walk outdoors, area and weather permitting, and say “hi” to everyone you pass. Make a point not to wear headphones or appear too absorbed in your phone during your walk, because both of those things discourage interaction, and the whole point of this exercise is to meet people. You want to appear friendly and approachable.
If the idea of taking walks everyday just isn’t feasible for you, at the very least, make a point to run into your neighbors from time to time if you can. Keep an eye out the window and go get your mail at the same time as the woman next door, or take out your trash when you hear the guy across the hall doing the same. It may feel a little weird at first, but for some, it might be the only way to run into the people you live near.
(Of course, safety should always be your first priority, so use your judgement when it comes to implementing any of these tips. If it’s dark out or you’re living in a dangerous part of town, maybe don’t go for a stroll, and if your neighbor’s dog is aggressive, don’t try to pet him).