Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman says the goal of a neighborly relationship is “collaborative, and not punitive.”By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Loud music, dogs barking, and lawnmowers running at all hours of the day. Oh, the joys of being a neighbor.

Did you know there is such a thing as neighborhood etiquette? National etiquette expert Diane Gottsman from The Protocol School of Texas says the goal of a neighborly relationship is “collaborative, and not punitive.”

Yes, she says there are neighbors who clearly do not care what anyone else thinks.

In those cases Gottsman says, “Unless it’s something that really needs to be handled, like let’s say there is a hazard, there is, you know, something that could harm someone else. I don’t know that you’re going to change them.”

So, for example, when is it appropriate to run the lawnmower? “Try to stay between 9:00 and 5:00, 9:00 and 5:30. 6:00 starts to get into the time there are barbecues on the grill.”

If you have a neighbor who sleeps in she says, “You don’t have to wait for someone until 10 or 11 or 12 if they’re late sleepers.”

As for the general upkeep of your home, Gottsman says remember it’s a neighborhood, not an island, and property values are important.

“Because when someone goes to buy a home in a neighborhood, they don’t just look at that home they look at the neighbors and they look to see what kind of neighbors, They’re going to have to be living next to.”

When it comes to playing loud music outdoors, Gottsman says be reasonable and the same thing applies to the noises children make.

Gottsman says if your neighbors’ noises are interfering with your sleep, it might be time for a conversation that would go something like this, “I know you don’t realize this but we go to sleep at 10:00 and the kids are out, you know, still playing an you know at 11:00, 11:15 at night and I’m just asking if you could help us out with, with the noise control. So I’m asking them, but I’m telling them specifically, what I would like for them to do.”

As for dogs, “You need to abide by the rules, pick up, you know the mess, to make sure you’re always carrying little doggie bags, if the dogs are barking outside you need to take care of that because that means that they’re hungry, they’re tired they’re uncomfortable they’re bored, so I think if we own a pet. We have to be responsible for our pet.”

If your neighbor insists on getting his mail or newspaper in only his boxers, Gottsman says he’s not showing more than a bathing suit, but there is a limit to how unclothed your neighbor should appear. “If that person is inappropriately dressed and you have young children running around, then I think it deserves a conversation.”

As for Christmas decorations that linger, they may bug you but Gottsman says, “You’re not going to protocol hell because you leave your Christmas lights up, you know, there’s no such thing.” But she says decorations should be time appropriate.

Approaching a neighbor about an issue Gottsman says is all about approach.

First weigh, the importance of the irritation. “You have to think about it, is it one time this happens, is it once a month, or is it every single day, and people’s tolerance level is different.”

Then when you do bring it up, don’t whimp out. “”We shouldn’t approach it with an apology first. I’m so sorry, I hate to say this to you. This loses the power.”

Choose your battles wisely, “They should be worthy, and then you should come to the table, addressing them with, with some dignity.”

If you live in an apartmen,  Gottsman says you have to be careful about how your noise impacts those above, below, left and right of you.

As for appealing to a landlord with an issue, or calling in the police, Gottsman says that is always the ultimate recourse.

However, remember once you cross that line, it can sometimes do more long term harm than resolving that single issue.

Always try the direct approach first and be reasonable whether you are the complainer or receiving the complaint.