Some background:

I started a wood working hobby a few months ago of which the loudest tools are my stereo, a table saw, and a router. I've had some passive interest from neighbors as they drive by, peering into my garage to see what I'm working on - but no complaints about the noise or anything. I only operate the loud tools during mid-day on the weekends so as to make as little impact as possible. I also align the tools so that saw-dust is blown into the garage and I shop-vac it constantly to make sure I'm not letting dust escape.

The incident for discussion:

I was in the process of building a table on Sunday and began working on it around Noon. The loud tools were in use on this project (table saw, router). Around 4:00pm, a neighbor that I'd never seen before came over. I shut the router off, took out my earbuds, and his first words were, "Really?"

I thought that he was joking at first so I was cordial and explained that I was building a table for our dining room.

He was instantly angry (I suppose he was angry from the beginning - it just took me until now to catch on)...and he shouted "It's 4:00pm, ON SUNDAY, ON MOTHER'S DAY!"

I didn't really know how to respond to this statement and simply said, "yes...I know..."

It's at this point that he yelled that he was trying to enjoy his dinner and couldn't because of the noise and he threatened that, if I went back to work, he would call the police.

I attempted to deescalate the situation by introducing myself and holding my hand out to shake - an invitation that he did take. I then said, "let's come to a compromise. I'll break for a bit and then continue with the garage door down. How long will your dinner be?"

He then continued to yell, repeating that it was 4:00PM ON SUNDAY ON MOTHER'S DAY!

My wife had heard his shouting and was already in the garage by this point. She stated that I'd break for the day and the angry neighbor left.

The problem I need help solving:

I'm unsure how to move forward with this neighbor. Up until yesterday, I had never met or seen the man. Had he come over and simply asked me to quiet down, I would have (it's not my intention to be a neighborhood nuisance).

I would like to approach my neighbor to reiterate that, should he have an issue with my noise making in the future, then he should absolutely come by so that we can work out a good compromise.

However, I also want to make sure that it is absolutely clear that he understands that the level of aggression and hostility presented yesterday to me and my wife will not be tolerated and that there should be no reason why any interaction cannot take place with civility.

What sort of tactic/strategy would you use going into this interaction so as to extend the proverbial olive branch, but to reinforce that his behavior was uncalled for and will not be tolerated?

Edit to respond to comments:

Noise making is, indeed, a very culture dependent thing. In my locale, the law is fairly liberal on behalf of noise makers - operable time of day is 7:00am through 10:00pm and only the major holidays are exempted.

As stated above, I do not work during the week (not getting home from work usually until after 5) and this is my cut-off hour on the weekend as well.

The incident boils down to a neighbor being very upset over my noise making on a day that he viewed as more sacrosanct than I. Now, I admit to being unaware, and some may say, callous to his view. This is why I want to make amends.

On the flip side, my neighbor's overtly hostile and aggressive action was, in my mind, never an appropriate response. His attempt to use aggression and intimidation tactics, especially in front of my wife, is completely unacceptable behavior and it's this point that I also want to emphasize while resolving the situation.

I appreciate the insights given here and the different perspectives. If there is anything else that I can clarify - do as you do in the comments.


5 Answers 5


While you want to tell your neighbour that he was out of line and that he can’t behave that way again, the way you do that might depend on whether his complaint was reasonable. ie Are you going to tell him that his complaint is nonsense and his manners appalling, or that he made a valid point… badly?

I’m suggesting some things to research before you talk with your neighbour so you can be very sure of your ground on validity.

Consider: When you are busy working, earbuds in, for hours at a time, you might not have the best idea of effects elsewhere.

  • Your garage might be a sound box and, amplifying or channelling the sound.
  • Accidents of architecture may bounce the sound around leaving the one neighbour affected more than others.

Investigate the possibilities.

  • Get someone else to use your tools while you take a walk around the neighbourhood.
  • Stand near the angry neighbour‘s house for a while to see if it could spoil his quiet enjoyment of his property, remembering to think about duration and sheer inevitability as well as absolute volume.
  • Do this with your garage door both open and closed, and with an open mind.

The neighbours you know may be more willing to accept some nuisance than those you don’t.

  • Ask them to tell you honestly if the noise is too much.
  • Don’t tell them you’ve had a complaint, that invites people to take sides and could polarise the neighbourhood around the issue. Just say that you realise the noise carries and now you’ve been doing it a while, and intend to carry on, you wanted to check if you should do more to damp the sound.

Consider what you could reasonably do to dampen sound.

Read up on noise nuisance in your jurisdiction to check if you inadvertently breach that threshold. I see you have checked out permissible times, are there also restrictions on decibel levels? Remember, it is possible that something may still be deemed a legal nuisance without breaking a specific ordinance if the right people agree that it has become unreasonable (IANAL).

Have a look at some literature on the effects of noise nuisance to help you understand how your neighbour may be experiencing things from his side. This Health24 site is useful.

Psychological stress from being woken or disturbed, and the feeling of helplessness that you have no control over your environment. Increased stress levels, especially if these are sustained over long periods, are suspected to contribute to various health conditions, most notably those of the heart and circulatory system, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Also, have a look on this site at some of the questions people have asked about noisy neighbours. Often, people want to avoid confrontation and have to feel pretty pushed to go and challenge someone about noise.

Armed with this information and a fixed view on what, if any concessions you are prepared to make, ask your neighbour if you can meet to discuss. You’ve had time to prepare so don’t beard him at home with no warning, be fair and allow him prep time too.

I’d suggest that you have in mind an agenda, a running order to help you manage when in the conversation to bring up his behaviour. Your actions have, at root, been the trigger for all of this and you should focus on that first, not his aggression.

If you have decided that he may have a point, or at least that you can moderate the sound within an acceptable amount of effort/expenditure on your part (and remember that even if other neighbours have not complained, they might still appreciate les noise), lead with that. That is your olive branch. Let him have the win, perhaps thank him for drawing attention to the fact that you could be heard so far away. Reiterate that you had previously taken steps you thought would be sufficient and were sad it wasn’t enough. By being reasonable and gracious you may cause him to contrast your attitude with his own aggression and to apologise unprompted and perhaps justify his anger with stories of a stressful day. If he does, sympathise, confirm that you thought it was out of line, but accept the apology.

If it has gone well but he hasn’t apologised spontaneously, think carefully if there is anything to be gained by pushing it. If it is likely to jeopardise the new entente cordiale, let it go for now. Otherwise keep it to a passing remark as you wind down, something which invites agreement rather than sounding argumentative. eg

Hey, glad we got this sorted, but you do know that was out of line last time? I’d make the changes just as fast if you hadn’t come in shouting the odds.

(obviously, use your own words and idiom here)

If you are going to tell him that you don’t intend to cut the noise, still detail the steps you took to come to this view. It's a smaller olive branch, but an olive twig may be better than no olive wood at all. He may appreciate the effort you took, or be frustrated at being powerless to change a situation he finds stressful and may well become angry again, at which point he will not be receptive to you telling him that he is out of line and pushing the point risks escalating the argument. Consider instead telling him that although you feel the noise should be acceptable, you will abide by any arbitration by the local authority for such matters, be it the HOA, local town council, city council etc. It's another olive twig.

If that defuses the situation somewhat you might add that that is the only channel through which you will speak to him on the matter, because you found his initial aggression unacceptable, but be prepared to leave the conversation at that point.

Ultimately, you can only inform someone that you don’t find their behaviour acceptable, unless you have a sanction you can apply when they use that behaviour. So you have to think about how far you are prepared to go in order to enforce that. Are you willing to call the police, or to huckle him off your property personally, get a restraining order? I am in no way advocating violence or laying hands on someone, only pointing out that there is a limit to what words can do alone. If attempts to discuss with him, or to ameliorate noise don’t stop him coming over and ranting at you in your garage, then you may have to consider how else you enforce your boundaries.


The immediate response

You have no way of knowing what this neighbor's day was like or what led him to react the way he did. Perhaps he even walked away and immediately felt bad for the way he handled the situation. Since this was a one time event, it's impossible to know. However, I'd suggest that you give him the benefit of the doubt.

I would continue working as you have been, especially if this was the first incident after months of working. However, while you're hoping for the best (he had a rough day, this was a one off thing, etc...), prepare for the worst (his eventual return). If you find yourself in the latter situation...

If this happens again

Growing up with a younger brother, I can tell you that no matter how reasonably you form your arguments or how kind you try to be, if you do it while he's in a yelling mood, the conversation isn't going to go anywhere. In my experience, the best solution here is to deescalate the current conversation immediately in whatever way I can and attempt to approach the situation later when we've both calmed down. Deescalating also has the added bonus of usually letting the current argument go in favor of the other party, which encourages them to be more receptive to have the level-headed conversation later.

If your neighbor comes by again, immediately stop work for the day. Apologize (even if you're not sorry for working loudly, you can still apologize that it's making him feel this way!), let him know you'll stop for today, and invite him to a friendly conversation at a later date about how you can continue your hobby without bothering him.

If I was in your situation, I would remember that while they may be badly mishandling the situation, you are both infringing on each other's ways of life--him with your hobby and you with the quiet he's been used to--and as such, both of you will need to change to find an outcome where everyone is happy. If it peeves you to put your work back a few hours, remember that you're sacrificing a few hours now for many uninterrupted productive hours in the future!


Assuming you know where this neighbor lives, I would go to their door at a later point during the week.

Hello neighbor, I was hoping to talk to you a little about what happened last Sunday. I'd like to see if there's a compromise we can come to that will let me perform my hobby without causing you undue annoyance. Can you tell me what you would find acceptable hours in the weekend for me to use power tools?

The idea behind this approach is start off as the bigger person. You're not saying you won't perform your hobby, you're trying to figure out what the other party considers to be acceptable times for your 'noise pollution'.

Judging by the reaction they displayed last time however, there is a good chance that this will result in some conflict. There's a good chance your neighbor's response will amount to 'never' (or some unrealistically narrow time frame) being the acceptable time for you to use power tools. In such a case, you want to reinforce your desire to come to an accommodation but also reinforce that there is no compromise that results in you not enjoying your hobby.

I'm sorry to hear that. It feels like you're telling me to stop performing my hobby and I don't think that's a fair demand. I'd really like to come to a reasonable compromise, is there no realistic time frame we can agree on?

I would avoid trying to chastise them for the way they acted in the first interaction. I don't think there is a way to communicate that sentiment without escalating the situation. You have every right to be angry about it, but there is no constructive way to address that anger at this time.

Should you be unable to come to a compromise, express your regret at this fact and retreat. If another incident occurs, try to remain calm but clearly explain that you do not consider the other party's behavior to be acceptable.

I can appreciate that you're feeling angry about the noise, but it's really not acceptable to trespass on my property and start handling my tools. Aside from the fact that you have no business handling my property without my consent, it's also potentially dangerous. I would like you to leave my property now. I'll stop working for the day and when we've both calmed down we can have another attempt to come to a compromise.

By staying calm and reasonable, you retain the option for you to be the one calling the authorities. In my experience, they will always side with the person who is reasonable and attempting to find a compromise everyone can live with, especially if that person is well within your rights to be doing what they were doing in the first place. You may damage your position on the high ground if you instigate any conflict, no matter how justified.


This man has no rights whatsoever to approach you angrily without even introducing himself. Then angrily bullying you so that now you feel threatened, and worried about your work, the noise it is making and how you can fit in in future.

He has exerted an influence upon you. In return you were reasonable, but do not put up with any more of these visits Just tell him that you have rights on your own property and to keep away in future.

You can consider closing your door, buying silenced equipment or sound proofing the enclosure so that the decibel level is low. That is my answer to your question. You do not need an olive branch, it is he who should extend that to you if anything Do not allow a stranger to interfere with your life - stand firm on this.


Soundproofing your garage would be the best way to offer olive branches to all of the neighborhood, olive branches for everyone, yeah! let olive branches rain all over the silent place ^_^
We all will silently thank you for it. * Sigh *

Getting offended is the new black, and people find all kinds of ways to be offended, it adds spice to their lives. People can be offended by something as petty as adding some of your personality to your writing, and you better not breath because the next door bloke might be "misophonic" which many people with real disabilities consider to be a made up "disability" which provides a license (prescription) to behave nasty. Regardless of you agreeing or disagreeing, you now have to deal with nasty behavior from people who think they are in the right to act crazy and make a big deal about some distant sound emitted by the natural aftermath of a person being alive. In this case, you are enjoying being alive practicing a hobby at several yards of distance, regardless, someone finds a way to feel offended by your activities.

That said and addressing the situation you faced:
There's one thing you can thank him for, though. He might have voiced concerns that other neighbors might be too shy or "nice" to voice.

Accepting your handshake is not necessarily a sign of good will, which was confirmed by the disgusting way he rejected your invitation for a compromise. You really don't want to be extending an olive branch to a neighbor whose opening line to a fellow neighbor is and aggression like that:


But now that you have the good intention to do so, at least don't do it under his terms.

This person had the nerve to come to your home and antagonize you. He thought he had won before even starting to negotiate like a sane person, you don't want to offer positive feedback on his insane attitudes.

Remaining calm was the best thing you could do, you can be proud of yourself. But other than that, some other answers are suggesting that you go for the submissive strategy, which is the same as treating him as your boss, your ruler... please don't let assholes rule your neighborhood, this is how they get to rule the world.

  • Extend an olive branch under your own terms. That could be expert advice from you on how to soundproof his home. Don't help him with such endeavor as that could be taken as admitting guilt and providing compensation in advance.
  • Don't go to him, let him come to your property.
  • Prepare a hidden camera and record his actions, recording inside your property and public spaces is permitted.
  • Ask your wife to be prepared to support you instead of accidentally supporting the stranger, by calling the police next time the man comes invading your property and yelling.

Not being used to this type of situation you might think it's ridiculous, but the police know this is exactly the type of situation where many violent crimes are committed, i.e. a person who lost their cool.

You will have the footage as proof. He will be discouraged to call the police and if he does, they already know who's the problematic one. (That is, unless you are in fact in violation of some civil code, I don't think you are but it wouldn't hurt to investigate your local legislation.)

My experience with an invasive individual was similar in that I didn't do anything wrong but the person invading my home thought he was above the law and he could simply use his presence to convince me he was right and I was wrong. It wasn't a neighbor, it was a person who had bought the property my family was occupying and he decided he no longer wanted us there (he bought it for a reason, he had plans for the land).
Disregarding the law, he thought he could evict us by simply going there in person and putting pressure on us, but we still had an ongoing rental contract. He got loud after I informed him I knew the law, but I stood my ground, after he left a neighbor came to express her concern for my life because she recognized the guy from some mafia, and while a susceptible weak person would have submitted to pressure and fear, I figured there were ways to keep this person at bay.
He kept coming twice or trice a week demanding we removed ourselves from the property and the original landlord was being evasive and wouldn't pick up the phone. A rumor came to me about him loosing the property over some stupid game. The situation felt as if it had come out from a movie script or a cheap tv show.
One day that I was not home I received a call from an awesome friend who sent the police because this stranger was invading the property, when I arrived the police was already there and this was helpful because it set a precedent with witnesses of his unlawful behavior. Regardless of how bad the discussion and the whole episode with the police with him infuriated, he had no other choice than to adjust his behavior.
From then on, the man tried to be slightly more amicably, very hypocritical though, he started to compliment my pretty eyes and face, etc. Started to invite me for drinks... besides me not being gay, I really didn't want to be friends with a mafia person, but this gesture was the telling sign that he now recognized he was not in a position to be demanding anything, the situation had changed, he was now acting submissive, willing to spend money on me to earn my favor. I declined his invitation, however, to show my good will under my own terms, I agreed to him sending a person over to start preparing the land for what he had in mind. A person with a machete started to come over and it turned out to be his brother, and his conversation had a sniff of sadness and a stroke of creepiness, hahahaha, dayum, well, whatever. The story doesn't get much more interesting or helpful for you, I simply made sure to be convincing when I lied about where was the new place my family was going to be living at.

The point is, stand your ground, use the law at your favor, exhibit the man's wrong behavior, keep the rest of the neighbors on your favor. You'll be fine.

  • 1
    Could you try and back up your answer with either external sources or personal experience?. Why is it a bad idea to extend the olive branch, why should it this be done on the OP's terms... Right now, you're providing some reasoning as to why, but it's just your opinion on the matter, backing it up with sources or experience would be much more helpful.
    – Tinkeringbell
    May 16, 2018 at 8:48
  • 1
    Just a reminder that comment that comments are for requesting clarification and suggesting improvements. Any comment not doing either of these things is likely to be deleted.
    – sphennings
    May 17, 2018 at 2:16

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