A Rant on Civility

We attend a lot of homeowners association board meetings.  Sometimes, it's to discuss things like collections, meeting procedures, policy adoption, and other similar, mundane matters.  All too often, however, we attend board meetings for one simple reason: to make people play nice.

We understand that association governance is an intensely personal activity.  While the politicians in Congress are fairly removed from the actual effects of the decisions they make, association board members have to see their neighbors, who may be impacted by association decisions, every day.  Even a board member may disagree with a board decision that impacts that member's home ownership.  As such, it is very common for emotions and personalities to cloud what are fundamentally business decisions.

There is one simple way to help remove many of the personality conflicts that arise with association governance:

STOP INTERRUPTING PEOPLE AND LISTEN.

Nothing tells another person "I do not care what you are saying, and I do not value your input" more than interrupting that person.  There is a difference between lively debate and a callus disregard for another person's perspective.  You learned it in kindergarten, your mother drilled it into your head, and you know better.  Act like a grown up, let the other parties share their perspectives, and then agree to disagree.

Association governance is hard.  Don't make it harder by being childish and petty.  Create meeting parameters and stick to them.  If your board has trouble keeping things civil, enforce civility.  If a board member refuses to act appropriately, adjourn the meeting.  If that board member refuses to permit meetings to occur, consider seeking his or her removal.

Removal is an extraordinary remedy and not one we recommend in any but the most extreme cases.  It destroys institutional memory, costs money, and creates instability in a community.  However, sometimes removal is necessary.

Especially when someone refuses to be polite, and stop interrupting!