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‘Our neighbours on both sides have drums. I feel under siege’

Tell Me About It: ‘I work from home and can hear it anywhere I go in the house.’

I have fallen out with my neighbour who used to be a good friend. Around the same time, the family got one of their kids a set of drums which he plays sporadically throughout the day. I work from home and can hear it in my workspace, garden and anywhere I go in the house. To make things worse, our neighbours on the other side also have had drums for many years, though through negotiation they muffle the sound more often than not.

I feel under siege. My friend with the newest drummer is not open to negotiation though and suggested earplugs.

Any suggestions?


A number of significant things are highlighted here – the importance of neighbourhood community, the loss of friendship, the need for young people to engage in music and activities, the skills of negotiation and the need for home to be a place of refuge.


Working from home has complicated previously accepted norms around noise. Reasonable acceptance of noise during the day was okay, while limiting the evening and night-time levels. The difficulty now is that no time seems to be tolerable and therefore people who want to practice their drums, trumpet or saxophone have nowhere to go. Compromise seems to be the natural way forward and if this cannot be done successfully locally, then community mediation professionals provide services for exactly such situations – see your local Citizen’s Advice Centre for details or type community mediation into your browser to find out more.

You say you feel under siege, so this needs to be tackled before you engage in any negotiation as you want to be in the best state possible in order to secure a good outcome. You have lost a friend, feel pressured, dread coming home from holiday and feel belittled by the suggestion that you get earplugs. You say “we” in your letter, and this suggests a partner or family member and I wonder if this person is helping you to gain some perspective or if they are supportive of you?

Do they have a relationship with your neighbours that could be useful in negotiations, or can they help you understand your sense of grief and pressure, and gain a sense of perspective?

Loss of friendship can be akin to a family grief and should not be underestimated. How you are feeling now may include the stages of grief that are well known: anger, sadness, despair and hopelessness. This means that your normal resilience may be depleted and your capacity to feel powerful or energetic enough to tackle a difficult situation may not be available to you. This is made more difficult by seeing your ex-friend every day and perhaps they too are struggling with the rejection – the quip about earplugs is indicative of defensiveness. Processing grief takes time and we need compassion and understanding to heal, so allow yourself some time before putting the pressure on to fix things.

There are many examples of neighbourhood conflict where the long-term effect can be extensive, sometimes the next generation continues the fight, and this should be avoided at all costs

Both you and your neighbour want a good outcome and it will take only one of you to initiate a process to achieve that. When dealing with a conflict where both parties have a lot invested in it, it is always good to reach for what is important for both – in this case it is a good and happy neighbourhood. Your neighbour’s child needs to have times when they can play the drums and you need peace in order to work. Does your neighbour have a shed or outhouse which can be muffled with old duvets or fancy soundproofing, or can you negotiate going into your work office or using another workspace on a specific days or afternoons so that you are not affected by noise?

Very often if one person makes an offering, the other follows suit and small successes lead to more trust in each other, and relationships can improve gradually. Neighbourhood relationships are very important to us and to the success of our communities and so are worth investing in. The reason we engage in the thorniness of conflict is because it is a matter of care or principle to us and so it is worth investing it a solution, even if this takes time and effort.

There are many examples of neighbourhood conflict where the long-term effect can be extensive, sometimes the next generation continues the fight, and this should be avoided at all costs. Your neighbour’s children are likely good young people who are investing in music but like all teenagers they can be self-centred, so be willing to engage them in on the philosophy of shared living space.

You might be pleasantly surprised at their ability to think large and offer creative solutions if they are invited to participate in the discussion.