How to Deal With Neighbors When You Have Social Anxiety

Woman peering over fence at neighbor's yard.

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If you suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD) you might find it hard dealing with neighbors. You may avoid talking with your neighbors or time your entrances and exits so that you will not have to converse. Over time, these avoidance strategies may leave you a prisoner in your own home.

Although it will be hard at first, getting to know your neighbors has many benefits. Knowing who lives around you makes for a safer neighborhood or apartment building. Being friendly with your neighbors means having someone to borrow things from when you are in a pinch. You might even find a good friend.

How to Be Friendly

Being friendly with your neighbors does not have to be hard. Below are some tips to get you started.

If you are the new neighbor, try to make a good first impression. Choose a time to introduce yourself when your neighbor appears relaxed and not in a hurry. Wave, smile, and go over to introduce yourself. Good small talk topics include the area that you live in, activities, and things to do in town.

When you see your neighbor again, make a point of taking the time to chat a bit if she is interested in talking. If you aren't sure what to say, find something that you can compliment, such as her yard.

If you are feeling a bit more confident, and your neighbor seems like someone that you would like to get to know better, invent a reason to talk again. Go over to borrow an item for a recipe or a tool for a project. If you borrow an ingredient, invite your neighbor over to sample what you are making when it is done, so that you can talk more.

You may find that you have little in common with your new neighbors. A cordial wave and "hello" when you cross paths is all that is needed if you find that a friendship is not developing.

If social anxiety is severely limiting your ability to interact socially with your neighbors or with others on a daily basis, and you have not been diagnosed with SAD, it may be wise to talk with your doctor about your fears

Research on Stranger Danger

Research tells us that those high in anxiety are more likely to perceive others as less trustworthy—an evaluation that has more to do with your own anxiety than any actual danger of the stranger you have just met.

Be sure to remember that you sometimes view the world through a lens of fear because of your social anxiety. Try to imagine your new neighbor as an old friend to work against this bias. Gradually, as you get to know each other better, that initial stranger fear will lessen.

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  • Willis ML, Dodd HF, Palermo R. The Relationship between Anxiety and the Social Judgements of Approachability And Trustworthiness. Krueger F, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(10):e76825. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076825.