The neighbour effect

Someone moves in next door.

In the first week they come knocking to introduce themselves. They seem nice.

They work the 9-to-5 like you so every morning as you walk out to your car, you offer them a stiff smile. You always receive one back.

After the first month the stiff smile evolves into a genuine one. Sometimes, if you’re feeling perky, you might even spark a conversation.

After a couple months of leaving the house at the same time and arriving home in the evening simultaneously you start to talk to each other more.

At the weekends, when you’re in the garden, or bringing the shopping in, or walking the dog, you stop and chat about the policemen who went into number eighty-seven last night. You chat about the week you’ve had, about their in-laws that are coming to stay next week.

After a year, you trust them enough to ask a favour.

You’re going away for a weekend and the friend who usually looks after the dog can’t do it so would you mind? He’s no trouble. We’ll write down what he needs and when and give you his food and toys. It’s only a weekend.

They agree.

Several months later, the cousin who was supposed to be house sitting for you has bailed and you fly tomorrow and you’re panicking and you don’t know what to do. After some deliberation you head next door.

We’re really sorry to ask this, but would you mind keeping an eye on the house for the next two weeks? We had someone coming to stay but they can’t make it and we don’t know who else to ask.

Sure, says the neighbour. Not a problem.

They used to be a stranger. Now you trust them with the keys to your home.

Why?

You saw each other every day. The mandatory smile became a sincere smile. The smile became a conversation. The conversations created a relationship. The relationship built trust. And because you trust one another, you gave them the keys to one of your most valuable possessions.

It’s the neighbour effect.

If you run a business and have a presence online, everyone is a potential neighbour. It’s not just those who live next door. It’s our Facebook friends. Our colleagues. The people we follow on Twitter. The communities and groups we are involved in.

Everyone is someone who could potentially end up trusting us with the keys to their most valuable assets: their money, their time and their attention.

If you want to be the sort of person who inspires that level of trust, you have to be a good neighbour.

How?

Smile. Have a conversation. Do them favours. Build a relationship. Solve their problems.