My neighbor and I share a lawn. It isn't clear where the property line is without looking it up in an official resource since there are no physical barriers between us. His house is quite a bit nicer than mine. We have had a few pleasant interactions but certainly are not well acquainted. We have not had any unpleasant interactions. He moved there a year ago.

I used to mow both "sides" of the lawn when my previous neighbors (who were my friends) lived there. Now, I just mow a bit closer to my house since I have a new neighbor. I have a nice self-pushing gasoline mower and would like to go back to mowing both sides. This would be helpful for my new neighbor since his mower is an unpowered push mower. However, I don't really know how to ask if he is okay with me mowing his lawn without sounding like I am annoyed with his lack of care for his own lawn. I don't want to come off as if I'm hinting that I want him to better take care of his lawn.

I'd be mowing his whole lawn. The entire yard is essentially this area between our houses. A very small patch between his front steps and sidewalk would need to be mowed too. That small patch is probably 25 square feet — very small. I would happily mow that too.

How do I politely ask if he would like help without patronizing him?

  • 1
    Hi there Reubens4Dinner, welcome to IPS! I removed the question of if you should set the idea aside as questions of the form "should I do X" are off topic here. The rest of your post looks fairly on-topic. I also have a couple of questions that might make it easier to answer this. How often do you mow, and how often does he? Have you had any interactions with him that make you think he might be offended by you just going ahead and mowing his lawn?
    – Rainbacon
    Jun 13, 2019 at 16:40
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    No, there has not been anything unpleasant between us at all. I just feel uncomfortable doing this without permission. Basically, I want to avoid playing the role of the "offender" in this question: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/8007/… Jun 13, 2019 at 16:59
  • So why do you want to mow the neighbor's lawn? Is it simply to be helpful, or is there some other benefit you see in it? It might help to be able to explain it to the neighbor when asking.
    – David K
    Jun 13, 2019 at 19:29
  • For no reason other than it would be helpful. Golden rule, etc. Jun 13, 2019 at 19:45
  • 4
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available, as well as other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. If you'd like to add an answer instead, please make sure to check out our citation expectations too.
    – Em C
    Jun 15, 2019 at 2:02

2 Answers 2


Because it was something you used to do for the people who lived there before, you could use that to basically ease your way into it. Mention to him that you used to do it for the previous tenants/owners of the house, and that you really don't mind continuing to help out with it for them as well, if they want. Worst comes to worst, they decline, you continue mowing your lawn as you have always done.

This turns it away from "I am offering because you suck at lawn care" and more into "I am doing a friendly neighbour thing that I used to do and would love to do again".

(This is exactly what my dad did in their neighbourhood in this situation - he mows the lawn for his home and the ones on either side of them. People seem to like that sort of neighbourly connection between each other, and it is a nice way to bring people together. He doesn't take any payment or anything for the mowing, but periodically the neighbours share baking and things with him as a thank you. It works out pretty well.)


I fully agree with the answer from @Ash. But, let me add, on an Interpersonal note...

Yes, and...

The concept "Yes, and..." is borrowed from group improv stage play, such as the show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" The concept is that each action or line in the performance must always "agree" with the actor before, then add more to the scene; never level an agreement; never reject a line or action. (See notes at end.) When I discussed this with a friend from Calvin College on their acting team, he summarized it as "Yes, and..."

While intended for improv plays, I have found great success with "Yes, and..." in any uncharted and "unscripted" circumstances in my own life. When changes happen, I agree and move forward with some kind of contribution. It revolutionized my own relationships, especially positively breaking the ice with people I don't know. I mastered the skill in cold-contacting and door-to-door sales.

This is a kind of cold-contact situation with a high likelihood of getting a "cold shoulder" in return. Asking to mow the lawn is quite unusual and would need a lot to succeed. You can't just ask for the past while worried; you must try to make some small improvement while not being overwhelming.

The need for adding value all the time also goes back to Dr. Deming and his "Continuous Improvement" paradigm he taught to Japan. In that, we're either growing or dying; there is not "maintaining status quo". (Deming Cycle: The Wheel of Continuous Improvement) If you want to succeed, you must make improvement part of your plan.

Offer the lawn, plus a little more. Become better friends than you were with your last neighbors. Don't create a habit that will require more work from you. Don't offer to cook dinner or weed the garden. Just aim your heart to make it all around better, even better than before, some how, some way.

When you ask, maybe take a small gift with you too the door, nothing of great value beyond a "housewarming" gesture. Instead of a gift, you could just appear extra happy and uplifting every time you meet. The gesture will add the needed value to your kindness. The lawn is the "yes", the extra is the "and".

Mentally prepare yourself. If the answer is no, be ready to be thankful and happy and find some other way to make it better than before. Either way, anyway, make things "level up".

Employ this Interpersonal tool of "yes, and", then you will most likely get to mow the lawn.

Life always moves forward; so must we. If you only aim to go back to the same, good "mowing" relationship as before, you may lack the "happy energy" in how you come across in your request, you may even come across creepy or nervous and earn the opposite effect.

You want to improve the status quo because the past was better. But, to improve status quo without improving the past can't happen; Life won't allow it. To improve the status quo, we must also improve on the past.

Telling how things always were with the old neighbors would be great, but it actually isn't necessary. If you set your heart to "just be friendly, even friendlier than before", you won't need any reason, not even the past as your reason. Your happiness will speak for itself. With the extra boost that comes with aiming higher every day, talk of the happy, old days will be a plus. So the past isn't taboo at all, just optional.

Don't just aim for a "yes"; aim for a "yes, and" by giving the "yes, and" yourself.

Agreement in improv kevinmullaney.com

Simply put, an improviser must agree to all facts and circumstances that their scene partner establishes via dialogue, behavior or action. If I say that I’m a plumber, you must agree that I’m a plumber. If you act like you are in car, I must accept that. If I say that we are in an airport bar, set down your luggage and grab a drink.

...he even talks about "Yes Anding"...

Beyond simply agreeing with their partner, players should add information to the scene with each action or line of dialogue, at least at the beginning. This is often called “yes-anding” your scene partner.


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