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I recently received an angry knock on my door from a neighbor (renters) falsely accusing me of throwing an old newspaper into their front yard. I offered to pull my newspapers from the trash to prove it's not mine but they didn't care to hear my side of the story.

They expected me to go out to their yard, pick up their newspaper and throw it in the trash, which (to their anger) I refused to do.

They came back later that day and I tried to explain that it's not my problem but again they wouldn't hear it. I ended up shutting the door on them. Their response was to throw the newspaper at my door and shout through the door that I shouldn't start problems if I couldn't finish them.

  • How can I try to reason with these people?
  • How can I explain my side of the story if they refuse to hear it?
  • What should I say or do if they come back again?
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    You can't reason with these people. You've already tried. Just install a camera for the next time they accuse you of something else (or the next time they try to supposedly "retaliate" in some stupid childish way). Just follow all applicable laws regarding security video cameras and recordings in your local jurisdiction. You may even want to audio record what they say when they come to your door (assuming that's legal where you are) just in case they start making threats to you. Same goes for your car, a car can easily be keyed, or have its tires slashed. Have a camera pointed at your car. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 5 '18 at 12:32
  • @StephanBranczyk - probably the best advice. After all, even the episode he's already gone through with them is enough to warrant calling the cops. Who knows how things might escalate in the future. Proof is critical in a "he said, she said" situation. – AndreiROM Feb 5 '18 at 13:54
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The two things that you could use against a false accusation are..

  1. Denial
  2. Proof

.. and you already used both of these in your initial encounter. You tried to tell him it wasn't yours and you offered to get your newpapers out of the trash as proof, but he just spoke over you.

However, the encounter you had was clouded by his anger. Likely he had gone over the encounter in his head a few times before he came to your door. He may not have heard what you said because he either expected you to deny it and had already decided this would be false, or he just heard what he wanted to hear.

If you want to attempt to put this right you may wish to approach him in a day or two when he has calmed down. He will probably not be expecting this and so hopefully will not be in an angry state of mind.

Perhaps say:

I wanted to talk to you about what happened the other day. I can understand why someone else's trash in your yard would make you upset, but I want you to know, it really wasn't mine. It wasn't my newspaper and I definitely wouldn't throw trash in someone else's yard.

See what he says. Ideally he will accept what you say, and you may even get an apology. However, if he doesn't accept it or becomes hostile again you could just say:

The fact is that you can ask everybody in this neighbourhood if they saw me throw a newspaper in your yard and you won't find a single one, because I didn't do it. But I bet a few of them saw and heard you throw it at my door. If you come to my home in a threatening manner again or throw anything at my property, I will report you to the police.

That really puts things in perspective. He did something wrong when he threw it at your door, and you could likely prove it. But hopefully it won't come to that.

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    Although generally sound advice, I think threatening with the police won't defuse the situation. – Buhb Feb 5 '18 at 18:48
  • @Buhb Agreed Buhb, a peaceful solution is the gold standard here. I hope I've made it clear in my answer that this suggestion is only IF he continues to be hostile after the peaceful approach. Just trying to cover a possibility and prepare the OP for the encounter. If the neighbour is inherently hostile then stating the severity of the situation can't really make it worse, and my hope is that it will bring him to his senses. – Astralbee Feb 6 '18 at 10:09
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There is a single fallacy that you're having right now: don't convince them.

You have no need to tell your neighbors about how wrong they are, I seriously doubt they'll even listen. They don't want to listen. The simple solution is: don't.

You don't have to convince the opposition... you have to be able to convince the crowd.

They can stammer at you for not doing that one thing with their newspaper, but if it ever escalates, The one you'll have to convince, the officer, the newspaper company, or other official that you're right.

The neighbors may become troublesome and You'll be the one to escalate the situation. In that case, so long as you can show yourself in the right, you'll be fine.

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    This is a good starting point but needs a little bit more. I'd suggest adding "talk to the building management about the situation." If ever that neighbor decides to escalate the situation to them, your having been there first will be a huge help to you as it lets you control the narrative. – baldPrussian Feb 5 '18 at 2:10
  • I guess it depends on where you live but the building management seems to me like a big step to escalate this situation. In the moment the issue is just a newspaper. I don't think it's likely but maybe tomorrow the neighbor comes over and apologizes for overreacting. I wouldn't escalate it at this point. – user8838 Feb 5 '18 at 2:23
  • @tuskiomi My comment was directed at baldPrussian' comment. And now I can't edit my comment anymore. – user8838 Feb 5 '18 at 2:31
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    @edgar That's a good observation. At this point, it's merely to inform building management and not ask for anything to be done. You are correct in that involving them now would be a pretty big escalation. Something like "Hey, just wanted to let you know that... I don't need you to do anything about it but just wanted you to know." might be a prudent step if you get the feeling from the neighbor that this isn't over. – baldPrussian Feb 5 '18 at 14:12
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This is just a guess, but I guess the newspaper is not really the problem. I guess there were other problems maybe days or weeks ago which upset your neighbors (maybe with reason, maybe not). And after they (in their mind) suffered from your behavior over time now they decided to accuse you directly.

I would think about what other issues might happened in the past which might have upset them. Maybe you can talk to other neighbors what is going on.

I think it's unlikely that the newspaper was/is the only issue here.

If you like google: "Watzlawick hammer" and you will find an interesting story from a book which reminds me of you situation. Good luck!

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    That's a pretty big assumption to make, tbh. Somebody shows up at OP's door, being rude and falsely accusing them - but surely OP must be at fault somehow? Probably the grumpy neighbour is upset about something else as well but it's completely unclear from the question that OP is the source of it. – AllTheKingsHorses Feb 5 '18 at 9:31
  • @allthekingshorses: My first words are: "This is just a guess". It is not an assumption. The OP does not describe any history with that neighbor but likely there is some history (good or bad or whatever). He does not have to be at fault. In my experience thinks like this don't just happen, something happened before. It is possible that this is the first time they met but I guess (not know) that is unlikely. If you like look up the hammer story I mention above. It's a wonderful example of what might have happened. – user8838 Feb 5 '18 at 12:50
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    This has a really good premise. I think that generally one old newspaper in the yard isn't a reason for an enraged knock on the door. Whether OP's sins are real or imagined, I think it's a good idea to entertain this possibility. – baldPrussian Feb 5 '18 at 14:14
  • @Edgar Whether the OP is at fault or not, I agree that talking to the neighbors is a good idea. They're bound to know if he's a nice guy or a known troublemaker. – AllTheKingsHorses Feb 5 '18 at 17:23
  • To clarify, this was my first direct contact with these neighbors, there is no history there at all. I'm not sure how long ago they moved in. – Anon John Feb 5 '18 at 20:18
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First give him some time to cooldown

Then as you already say your neighbour doesn't hear you, then show him:

He already throw the yard paper to you. go to your trash can and take a picture of both paper. Try to make the dates or the front pages visible.

You can add a comment: Thanks for the paper but I already have mine. Hope you can find the original owner. Let me know if I can do anything else to help.

Nothing sarcastics, not confrontational, just polite.

Then you can send the picture by Whatsapp or any other messenger. Just dont talk to him right now because he is already upset and isn't listening to reasons.

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