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damage control

The question

We got some new neighbours next to us recently and they have installed a TV in their backyard and they’re constantly watching it outside. The TV seems to be on constantly (especially in the evening) and it’s becoming annoying. I can tell the volume is not loud and they’re probably trying to keep it down but it’s still driving me crazy. We now have to listen to whatever they’re watching when we’re outside and sometimes we can even hear it when we’re inside our house. I work from home, long hours in front of a computer and various conference calls and the reason I go outside is to be able to relax. We want to be good neighbours but we also like to have some sort of privacy and quiet time in our backyard. Should we talk to them?

The answer

Short answer: Yes.

It’s funny, I’ve noticed, over the years, I’ve received more queries on family- and neighbour-based friction than any other type of question.

Which makes sense, really, when you think about it. Friends, you can choose. Family and neighbours, you’re stuck with.

People move in next door. Maybe they’re not so wonderful. What are you going to do?

Just for the record I want to say my family and I personally have lovely neighbours. We are attempting to sell our house at the moment and I fully feel like that should be part of the sales package: “High ceilings, hardwood floors, new furnace, two fireplaces – and great neighbours! Really a lot of fun! Helpful and friendly!”

In your case I would definitely take the bull by the horns. Ethically and morally, you are certainly entitled to enjoyment of your property.

Not to mention financially! And part of what you’re paying for is the right to a little peace and quiet after a tough day.

You know the saying: “Your right to swing your fist ends at the point where it strikes my nose”? I’ve always felt the same way about noise. Even music blasting from a passing car with windows open feels unfair to me.

Everywhere one goes these days, everyone freely treats you to their taste in music, blasting out of their cars or backyards; their opinions as they loudly talk on their cellphones; and so forth.

People emit noise. It seems to be what we do, especially nowadays.

But there is great virtue in silence. According to the Desert Fathers (early Christian hermits): “Just as if you leave open the door of the public baths the steam escapes and the virtue is lost, so the virtue of the person who talks a lot escapes the open doors of the voice. This is why silence is a good thing.”

Time to convince your neighbour of the virtue of silence – in this case not vis-à-vis talking too much or too loudly or cranking music but vis-à-vis watching TV in the backyard.

Politely, of course. Last thing you want, last thing anyone needs, especially these days, is to go to war with neighbours.

Maybe be blunt but not too blunt. Why not say something like what you’re saying to me: “Listen, my backyard is to me an oasis, an escape from a tough day, and your TV watching is an assault on my peace and quiet.”

Well, maybe use a different word than “assault.” Maybe just something like: “Do you think you could watch your TV inside?” (Allowing yourself the thought balloon, not to be uttered aloud: “Like most normal people?”)

If you want to gild the lily a bit: “I come out here to meditate, and I can’t concentrate with your TV on.”

One hopes your neighbour will see reason and take the TV inside.

If not, well, you better write me back.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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