Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
Tom Woods, Bob Murphy, and Andy have all taken on the issue of whether or not the Non-aggression Principle is sufficient for libertarians to be considered ‘good’ or ‘nice’ guys or gals. Of course it is not. The Non-aggression Principle only supplies the basis for Libertarianism and is an ingredient for keeping peaceful relations between people and is not a complete recipe for furthering your reputation among your family, friends, or neighbors.
Something these gentlemen have not yet discussed, however, is how to deal with people whose behavior follows the letter of the NAP but disregards the feelings/comfort of those around them: like a noisy neighbor or the guy who creates expectation for a certain post by calling you out in the middle of his blogpost.
So what are the best ways to deal with the pain in the rear that lives next door? For simplicity’s sake, I will call this neighbor – I don’t know – how about Andy?
1. Analyze the Situation.
Before taking any steps that may affect your relationship with Andy, be sure to thoroughly evaluate the situation. Is this a singular event that will not take place again? Did your normally perfect neighbor accidentally leave his sprinkler too close to your yard and now your perfectly orchestrated watering scheme is ruined? The worst way to deal with any annoying neighbor is to avoid becoming an irritant yourself.
2. Know Thy Enemy
Not in the Sun Tzu sense. Approaching things from a positive angle, get to know Andy better before taking further action. You may find Andy is simply unaware of his irritating behavior. A display of kindness in approaching him with friendship will also put you in his favor should you need to pursue further methods toward resolving any strife.
3. Be Open to Input
Seek out advice from friends – both your friends and Andy’s. Your friends may have been in similar circumstances and could therefore possess valuable advice (or at least hilarious anecdotes). Approaching the friends of the strife-causing neighbor may give you additional insight into his character. They may even reveal that you have also annoyed Andy in some way.
4. Confront with a Smile
Approaching Andy about a problem is a lot like encountering a bear in the woods. Even if the other party is not truly as scared of you as you are of it, you need to act like they are. Again, approach with kindness and friendliness but be confident, acting as if you have had this conversation before. Inquire about the person and make small talk before delving into your complaint.
When it gets time to be serious, be serious. Explain the issue clearly to Andy. No matter how many times you have had this conversation in your head, this is his first shot at the information. Tell Andy how you would like things to go in the future and ask him to agree to the standard. Be sure to allow him to speak his piece as well. You are asking him for good behavior, not commanding it.
If met with kindness or merely awkward acceptance…
Say thank you. Tell Andy that you appreciate his willingness to help you out in this matter.
Do not stop there. You have the starting point for good conversations in the future, so be outgoing and share your love of liberty with Andy.
If met with hostility…
Simply remain calm and kind. Remind Andy that you believe this to be a simple misunderstanding, not a life-altering event. Should you continue to meet with hostility, wrap up the conversation quickly, ask him to think it over, and suggest that you speak again soon to resolve the matter.
Do not let it end there. Make sure to follow up with the neighbor. Perhaps Andy will think on things and be a bit more amiable on your next meeting.
However, if he persists in meeting your kind requests with hostility…
5. Create a Coalition
Talk to your other neighbors (in the case of an annoying friend, friends held in common) and ask if they are experiencing similar issues. Be careful. You want allies but do not want to create additional strife in the neighborhood.
If your neighbors are not annoyed…
It is not your job to persuade them to be annoyed. Move on and maintain your friendly relationships with these neighbors. Skip to step number 6.
If your neighbors are ready to help…
With another neighbor in tow, try the confrontation again. Let the annoying neighbor know that you are not the only neighbor negatively affected by his behavior. This may help the neighbor come to accept your arguments and change his behavior.
However, if the annoying neighbor continues to persist in meeting your kind requests with hostility…
6. Be Even Kinder
Do your best to ignore the annoying behavior and continue to take an interest in the person. Always greet Andy with a friendly manner and discuss common interests or just make small talk. Hopefully, over a short period, this will soften Andy’s extremely hard heart. With any luck, one day the annoying behavior will stop. Andy may never admit he was in the wrong, but the result will be the same.
However, if this royal pain in the rear persists in his hostility toward you…
7. Appeal to Authority
IF and ONLY IF you share something in common with the neighbor that includes an authority figure you both respect, now is the time to appeal to the authority for mediation. Some examples of this would be a sharing a religious tradition (sit down with a pastor or elder in the role of mediator), renting from the same landlord (where a contractual obligation is being ignored by the offending party), or having relatives in common (brother vs. brother? call your father. cousins? talk to your grandmother).
As a last resort…
8. Shun the Obstinate
There is only so much a person can take and you have done everything in your power to restore your relationship with this person. It is now time to pursue the last course of action left to you: shunning. Avoid and ignore Andy completely. Make it clear to friends or neighbors that you have tried many times to fix the relationship and must now disassociate yourself from Andy.
Tips for the inexperienced:
In closing, here are a few things to watch out for:
Mediation Cuts Both Ways
This is where the first three steps can be very helpful. If you have thoroughly evaluated the situation, gotten to know the person better, and sought advice on the matter, mediation should go in your favor.
Beware the Helpful Neighbor Trap
Be very careful if you offer to help the neighbor with his problems. This extra kindness is a wonderful thing, however, you may open yourself up to far more than you intend. This also is a good illustration of why you need to be clear in explaining how you want things to work in the future. You do not want to have to confront your neighbor 27 times because you were not clear as to how loud is too loud.
Fighting Dirty Only Makes You Dirty
Returning your neighbor’s poor behavior with poor behavior of your own is not an option. Keep to the standard of behavior you normally operate on and do not lower yourself to fight dirty. This leads directly to the next trouble area…
Escalation Begets Escalation
Should you choose to ‘fight fire with fire’, you may compound the problem rather than solving it. Cranking up the volume on your music in response to the neighbor’s noise may only cause him to buy larger speakers.