At some point, every community will face conflict and difficult people. When this occurs, remember that patience and communication always prevail. By managing your reactions, listening, and asking the right questions, your community and board will come to a resolution. The first way to deal with conflict is to understand the different types of behavior used by difficult people. Here’s a quick overview:
- Aggressive – Think pushy, in-your-face, and domineering. When someone acts this way, it generally comes with unspoken threats of aggression that create tension and unease. Someone who is aggressive is usually strategic and controlled in how they attack.
- Terrorist – This is when a person uses abusive language, emotional outbursts like crying or yelling, and even threats to hold a group (aka your HOA board) hostage. This behavior is so relentless and toxic that an HOA board is unable to move forward with the usual business.
- Passive-Aggressive – These people are less obvious than the former. Passive-aggressive people usually have hidden agendas and their covert attacks are generally sabotage normal group processes and often include character assassination.
- Victim – Victim behavior is often characterized by blaming, whining, and complaining. Unlike the normal and occasional complaining, this type of behavior is persistent and can be caused by any issue or person who “victimizes” this difficult person.
- Inflexible – This is someone who can’t/refuses to move past issues. Even after the group collectively agrees to move on, this type of person may continue bringing it up. Unlike the other behaviors mentioned above, this behavior isn’t as threatening as it is an energy drain and source of frustration.
- Polarity Response – If you’ve ever worked with someone who always did, said, or wanted something contrary to you/the group, then you’ve dealt with polarity response. With this type of person, disagreement is automatic and often times goes beyond playing devil’s advocate.
While dealing with these types of behaviors isn’t easy, here are a few techniques that can help your board avoid major conflicts and hopefully find resolution:
Listen – Even if someone’s approach to disagreement isn’t constructive, listen to their concern. Showing them the courtesy of actively listening is sometimes all it takes to change their behavior and to find a resolution.
Take a deep breath – If you or the board immediately get defensive or aggressive in response to a difficult person, you’re likely making matters worse. Before you respond, take a deep breath and respond in a constructive and calm way. Sometimes easier said than done!
Be direct – Just because you think you understand what someone wants doesn’t mean that you do. It is very important to directly ask “What do you want?” or “What do you hope to accomplish?” Asking these questions turns the conversation into something constructive! This approach helps identify goals and it builds trust.
Be honest – Your HOA board needs to focus on outcomes and sometimes that means compromising along the way. Always ask “What does this community need?”, and then focus on accomplishing that.
Change your approach and consider alternatives – If what you’ve been doing isn’t working, it is time to change. While you can’t make a difficult person change, you can change your approach and often the results are very rewarding. Sometimes difficult behavior persists, and when that happens it is best to evaluate alternative options. Don’t get so caught up holding onto original ideas that you miss an opportunity to approach the problem from a different angle and with better solutions.
We know how important it is for an association to run smoothly, and we know how disruptive difficult people/behavior can be. If your board is struggling with someone who just won’t cooperate and you’re at a loss, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! At Spectrum Association Management, we believe that it is our job to help mediate situations between residents and the board to prevent bad blood and lasting grudges. If you’d like advice or input on your situation, we’re happy to help!