For those of you who follow our Colorado HOA law blog, you know that last week I started a series of blog entries aimed at providing tips on how to constructively manage conflict in HOAs. I’m convinced that if homeowners, board members and managers keep these tips in mind, it will give everyone involved a real chance at resolving conflict before things get out of hand.
Tip #1 from last week, was “Be real about what is bothering you.” Here is Tip #2 for your consideration:
Tip #2: Listen, Listen, Listen!
Something I see over and over in HOA conflict, is that the folks involved in the disputes are so wrapped up in how they have been wronged by the other person that they don’t listen to what that person is saying. Unfortunately, when attempting to address conflict in a constructive way, some folks will rudely interrupt the individual trying to discuss their position and feelings. It’s also not uncommon for folks to be so wrapped up in thinking about how they will respond that they don’t really hear what the other person is saying. Obviously, this is a recipe for misunderstandings, an escalation of the conflict and a real interpersonal mess!
Instead, everyone involved in conflict should try mirroring what the other individual is saying. For instance, a homeowner might say that she believes she was singled out for failing to repair her fence when another homeowner just down the street hasn’t repaired her fence or been slapped on the wrist by the HOA. A member of the board should respond by saying something like: “What I hear you saying is you feel that we have not treated you fairly and we need to take another look at other fences in the community.”
By truly listening and mirroring important points, you show the person speaking that you have listened respectively and actually heard what they had to say. While you may not agree with the individual who was speaking, the fact that you took the time to really listen to their point of view is essential to building respectful common ground which will help all of the parties resolve the dispute in a constructive manner.
The bottom line is don’t interrupt and argue with the person who is speaking. Instead, listen with respect and acknowledge their feelings!
Stay tuned for more tips on constructively managing conflict in HOAs. I promise not all of the tips will be touchy feely!