050 – Help! I have a horrible neighbor (fixed)

Neighbors can be great friends, but let’s face it: sometimes they can be absolutely horrible. But what do you do when you’re stuck living next to a neighbor who you just can’t get along with, no matter what you try? In this episode of Better at English, Lori introduces you to the “How To” podcast with Charles Duhigg. It’s a conversational podcast that covers ways to deal with all kinds of life problems, and does so in an entertaining and fun way. And best of all, it has free transcripts that you can use for your English learning. Lori plays some extracts from the conversation, and looks at some of the interesting language.

The full transcript of this episode is here:

Hi English learners! Lori here, your teacher from betteratenglish.com. So nice that you’re here! Come on in, kick off your shoes, sit back and get ready for some English listening practice.

Today I’m going to play you some bits of conversation from one of my current favorite podcasts. It’s not a special English learning podcast; it’s a podcast for native speakers of English. But if you can follow along with the conversations in my own podcast, you should be able to follow this one as well. Just like I do, they have free transcripts available on their website, so you can use them to support your English learning. I’ve put links to everything in the show notes.

The name of the podcast is “How to with Charles Duhigg”. If the name Charles Duhigg is familiar to you, it could be that you’ve heard of his book “T he Power of Habit.” If you’re an upper-intermediate or advanced learner and you’re interested in psychology, I can highly recommend it. The Power of Habit is one of those books that teaches you something useful and just makes your life better. Charles’s podcast is the same: it’s entertaining, of course, but it also teaches you useful strategies that you can apply in your own life.

“How to” is an interview show, so it’s very conversational. Charles helps people figure out how to deal with difficult or awkward problems. He usually has a co-host who is either a celebrity or some kind of expert.

In the episode called “How to confront a crazy neighbor,” Charles’s co-host is comedian and actor Tig Notaro. Their guest is a woman named Sarah. Sarah is in the middle of a very unpleasant and stressful conflict with her neighbor. Charles and Tig are going to help her figure out what to do. First let’s listen to Sarah giving some background information about her living situation:

“My name is Sarah and I’m a college counselor. I work with high school students who are low income, and I just bought a condo this year. This is the first time I’ve ever owned a house or anything. So that was pretty exciting. It’s a small building, there are just three units in it. So it’s me living on the first floor and then a guy who lives behind me and then a family who lives upstairs.”

Sara mentions that she lives in a condo. Condo is short for condominium. In the US, a condo is like an apartment or flat, but with one big difference. Do you know what it is? Can you guess from what you heard? Listen again:

“I just bought a condo this year. This is the first time I’ve ever owned a house or anything. So that was pretty exciting.“

The key word is bought. Sarah said she bought the condo, not that she rents it. So the difference between a condo and an apartment or flat is that in a condo, you own the space that you live in – the unit. You actually buy it, and you can sell it. But in an apartment you just pay rent every month. You don’t actually own an apartment unit. So buying a condo is a much bigger deal than just renting an apartment because it’s such a big financial investment.

In Sarah’s condo building, there are three living units – it sounds like they are all attached. She shares a common front porch area with the other people who live there.

So you’re probably wondering, “What’s the problem?” Sarah had bought a plant – a fern – to hang on the front porch, but she didn’t ask the other neighbors if it was OK. That was the start of the whole trouble. Let’s listen to what happened. You’ll hear Tig, Sarah and Charles in this little extract.

TIG: …what happened?

SARAH: So one day I got this note in my mailbox from the wife who lives upstairs and it said, “I am done trying to communicate with you. It is clear that you, um, are just going to, like, disregard my feelings and you don’t care about anybody but yourself. So from now on, I am only going to communicate with you through condo meetings.”

Charles: Whoa! Did you have any idea what she was talking…like, this is literally the first…?

Sarah: No.No. So this is what was so wild about it, was that I just got this letter and I had no idea what it was about. And it just said, “I’m anti power trips. Don’t involve my family in this. If you have any frustrations, you need to bring it up in the condo meeting.”

Tig: First of all, when somebody says “I’m anti power trips,” the translation is “I am all about power trips.”

Wow, I don’t know about you, but I would feel pretty upset if I got a note like that from a neighbor. The language is just so confrontational. Did you notice Sarah’s tone of voice as she read the note? She used a very angry tone of voice. She probably imagines that her neighbor felt very angry when she wrote the note.

And what about this:

Tig: First of all, when somebody says “I’m anti power trips,” the translation is “I am all about power trips.”

Power trip. If somebody enjoys controlling other people, or showing that they have power over them, you can say that they’re on a power trip. Or that they’re power tripping. The feeling of having the power to control other people makes them feel good somehow. They often exert their power in inappropriate ways that make other people feel bad.

Let’s go on and see how Sarah feels about this note.



The How to with Charles Duhigg podcast
How To is a conversational podcast that features smart people talking about interesting things and tackling tricky problems.
Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, and the author one of my favorite books, a bestseller titles The Power of Habit (Try the audio book summary of The Power of Habit on Blinkist)

The episode featured in this episode, “How to deal with a Crazy Neighbor,” is here:

You can find the episode transcript here:

How to deal with neighbor harassment
This is an interesting article about how to deal with a neighbor who is harassing you

2 thoughts on “050 – Help! I have a horrible neighbor (fixed)”

  1. Hi Lori,

    I’ Anita from Hungary. I’m so happy to find this podcast. It is really great and usefull for english learners. I listened many, many kind of podcasts but betteratenglish.com is the best. So thank You!
    Have a nice day!


    1. Hi Anita! Thanks so much for your lovely words. I’m so glad that you are finding the podcast useful for improving your English. It might sound cheesy, but it’s feedback like yours that keeps me making podcasts. Just knowing that I’m helping even one person is enough to keep me going. I’m actually working on one right now :-)

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