The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 40s. A man who lives next door to me with his wife never responds to my greeting.
The couple seem to be in their late 60s. They built a house next to mine, where I live with my son, and moved in more than a decade ago. They look mild-natured, and the husband often tends the trees in their garden.
Although there is a fence between our properties, it doesn’t obstruct the view into my garden: When I come out of my back door I often see him. I used to bow and have said hello to him on several occasions, but he has never responded. As I thought I was probably bothering him, I started to avoid looking in his direction if he was around, and just walk past him.
I also look away from him when I see him in the neighborhood. I feel terrible when I think this situation will continue.
How should I resolve this so I can live peacefully?
T, Nara Prefecture
Dear Ms. T:
It’s an embarrassing situation indeed. Why does your neighbor behave this way? There is no particular conflict between the two of you. There is no reason to dislike each other either, as you don’t know each other well. Based on these facts, I suspect it may have been caused by a series of misunderstandings that have taken place when you have seen each other in the garden, and I surmise as follows:
Your neighbor does in fact want to greet you, but he is very shy and always misses the chance to do so. While he is upset with his inability to greet you appropriately, you misunderstand that your greeting may be unwelcome and ignore him. You further misunderstand that you should continue ignoring him and give up on greeting him altogether. He incorrectly thinks you dislike him and gives up on trying to greet you. He may feel as bad as you do about the situation and is similarly distressed.
If my surmise is right, you should perhaps stick to greeting him clearly and articulately to solve this problem, even though you may be ignored for a while.