While conflict is inevitable in a homeowner association, there are choices about how it's dealt with. When handled constructively, conflict can create a healthier awareness and better relationships.
Conflict rarely gets better with time. If allowed to fester by avoidance or grow by ongoing aggression, the feuding parties become more entrenched in their positions and arriving at resolution becomes more difficult. Resolution is most easily achieved early on. Here are the steps to getting it done:
Speak Directly. Speaking directly with the person with whom you have the problem, assuming that there is no threat of violence, will usually resolve the issue. Meet in person or talk over the phone to explain your concern in a positive, respectful way. (Anonymous letters, banging on the wall or complaining to your neighbors does not qualify.)
Plan Your Approach. Think about what you want to say in advance. Talk about the problem as you see it and how it affects you. Help the other party understand that a problem exists and invite them to help you find a solution that you can both live with.
Choose a Good Time. Consider a time when you think the other person will be most receptive. A quiet place where you won't be easily disturbed, perhaps with a cup of coffee, can make it easier to talk and listen. Avoid cocktail hour.
Communicate Openly and Honestly. Express a positive attitude about working together to find solutions. Blaming the other person makes it harder for him to hear and understand your concerns. Remain open to a different perspective than your own and try to understand it.
Listen. Give the other person a chance to explain their view, concerns and feelings. Summarize what you hear and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Understanding doesn't mean that you agree. But just echoing another's thoughts goes along way toward compromise.
Open Up. Get the issues and feelings out in the open. Don't ignore the part that seems too "difficult" or "minor". Your resolution will be durable if the issues are considered and addressed.
Consider Options. Be creative and offer solutions that you both think might work. Cooperating to find a solution is much more effective than one person demanding that the other change.
Be SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For example, "Beginning tomorrow, I'll turn down my music by 9:30. If I forget, call me and let me know."
Keep the Door Open. Agree to revisit the issue to make sure your agreement is working. Communicate immediately if the solutions are not having the desired effect. Congratulate yourselves on working together to resolve the problem.
Building a lasting resolution from conflict can not only solve an immediate problem, but opens the door to better understanding and even, possibly, a lasting friendship. Don't preclude the latter. Build on your success and miracles can happen.
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