You’ve been there before – after a long week of trying to re-negotiate the landscape contract, a homeowner calls to complain about the hideous condition of the pool. It’s turning green from algae and the pool service company never bothered to call and let you know they went out of business two weeks ago. It’s a holiday weekend in the summer, the homeowners are raucous and quick to point the finger and assign blame, and the finger is pointing at you!
One of the most challenging aspects of Managing a Property or Association is not the actual property itself. It’s some of the people who you encounter in every aspect of the job. From board members, to homeowners, to service technicians, skilled labor, and contractors…there are a lot of moving parts and personalities involved, providing many challenges that test your inner peace!
Since most of us are not trained to deal with tricky personalities and conflict, we tend to do anything we can to avoid having to deal with them altogether. This might be a good short term solution, however difficult people and challenges they present along the way are best attended to quickly and skilfully, lest they do what they are prone to do…increase in magnitude.
Authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, in their book Crucial Conversations state that a crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where 1) the stakes are high, 2) opinions vary, and 3) emotions run strong. That could describe many situations in the Property Management universe. Especially when you consider you are dealing with homeowners, whereby emotions are particularly vulnerable given the size of their investment.
The authors say we can all do better at releasing our defensiveness by applying a few simple strategies. One of the most interesting aspects of the book deals with what happens when we let emotions take over. Simply stated, when we have an emotional response to an individual we tend to invent stories in our unconscious and conscious minds about why they did or said what they did. We do this whether it is true or not. The authors suggest going into the converstion with the individual/s involved with an open mind, recognizing that we don’t necessarily know why they acted in the way they did. Once we allow them to be heard and understood, the empathy is often the thing that diffuses the tension and a solution to the problem is more likely identified.
Some other simple strategies that can be employed when dealing with negative or difficult people:
-Don’t worry about who’s right - as long as you can get to an agreeable solution it doesn’t really matter.
-Don’t let your ego get in the way – you know how awesome you are anyway…you don’t need anyone else to validate your brilliance!
-Remember, it’s about them – Negative people don’t get their negativity from you…it comes from within themselves. Let them have it, but don’t let it turn you to the dark side!
-Delay your responses to hostile emails and voice mails – the longer you reflect on your response, not giving in to fear, anger, or sarcasm…you will be well on your way to a reasoned and rational response aimed at obtaining the perfect outcome.
-Don’t fight anger with anger – it’s better to deflect the heat by asking yourself questions about what could be driving the hostility behind the person addressing you. The more you are curious rather than defensive, the more likely you are to effectively manage the crisis.
-Forgive and forget – it’s hard…but if you can truly forgive and individual for their affronts and let go of the emotional discharge that can fester inside of you for days and weeks, the sooner you can get on with your life free of the bitterness shackles that often bind people far too long. Don’t let them get to you!
-Take some personal time – a run, swim, spa treatment, or just listening to soothing music with a glass of your favourite adult beverage might just give you the time, distance, and space needed to bring perspective and clarity to an unwanted situation.
In a nutshell- quickly deal with the difficult person by asking questions that seek to understand without allowing defensiveness and ego to get in the way of getting to a proper resolution.
Property Managers work hard and are generally under-appreciated for what they do. Remind yourself that you are an essential and key person when it comes to keeping a community running and as such someone who must have the skills and abilities to handle the most difficult of individuals while maintaining your own precious sanity. What’s the old saying? “With great power comes great responsibility”!