SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Leaders across the nation have different ideas about the best motivation for neighboring, according to David Burton, county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Recently, I was told that people need a tangible reason for neighboring. They have to know what it is in for them," said Burton.

One motivation for "neighboring" comes from knowing that it impacts your health. Plenty of research reveals the importance of face-to-face interaction on our mental and physical health.

At the same time, loneliness during the pandemic has made neighboring a top-of-mind idea. This means some Americans want to connect to avoid feeling isolated.

It is also essential to do something with others to make the world or community a better place.

"If you are civically minded but ignoring your neighbors, that isn't very honest," said Burton.

Still, others feel they are commanded us to love their neighbors, and they take that to heart.

"Despite some strong arguments in favor of it, I still hear excuses for why Americans do not know or love their next-door neighbors," said Burton.

Here are a few reasons Burton hears most often about why people do not actively know or engage with their neighbors.

1.     I am an introvert.

Introverts don't seek special attention or social engagements because these events leave them feeling exhausted. Perhaps it is better, to begin with an indirect approach. How about a handwritten note of introduction to a neighbor sent in the mail?

"Just spending more time in your front yard and being available and visible can give you a kick start on getting to know your neighbors," said Burton.

2.     I am just way too busy.

Being crazy busy could be a different topic because it is a problem too. But relationships happen in the margin. Creating margin will require you to say no to some things while saying yes to neighboring.

"We must make decisions that allow us to have margin in life. This doesn't mean that you fill your margin watching Netflix," said Burton.

3.     I already tried doing a neighboring thing once.

The problem with a neighbor "moment" is that it is easy to forget. Neighboring needs to be emphasized and discussed repeatedly. If left on our own to "neighbor," we will most likely pick people we already know.

"We have not been a nation of neighbors for several decades," said Burton. "Changing the culture is going to take practice and effort and repeating."

4.     I want my home to be my sanctuary.

Your home can still be special while also helping you be a great host. Our homes can be a place where we exercise hospitality.

"While our home is for our family, the entire family should be connecting with neighbors," said Burton.

5.     Neighboring is just a fad.

There is a lot of interest in "neighboring" after the COVID19 era. But that does not make neighboring a fad. Instead,

"Americans have just done a lousy job of neighboring over the last several decades, and we see its impact. When all types of surveys show that fewer than 20% of Americans know or interact with any of their neighbors, we have a problem," said Burton.


Neighboring is the art and skill of building relationships with the people who live in closest proximity to you. Neighboring begins by learning and using names, it grows through associations, and ultimately it bears fruit with engaged neighbors who can positively impact their neighborhood and their community.

University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement that recognizes the importance of neighboring in community development. As community leaders and advocates, we encourage friends to learn the names of all their neighbors, build relationships with their neighbors through common interests and shared experiences, and sustain compassionate and caring practices of neighborly love.

To learn more about our "Engaged Neighbor" program, or for more on the impact of neighboring, go online to or contact David Burton by email at or telephone at (417) 881-8909.

"Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" can also be found on Facebook.


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