No one wants to deal with an angry homeowner. Dissatisfied homeowners are, unfortunately, a fact of life for HOA Board members. How you respond makes a big difference in resolving the issue and crating a solid relationship in the future. Here are seven things you can do to diffuse the situation and move to common ground.
1. Assume the Homeowner has a Right to be Angry
Mistakes aren’t made on purpose, but they do happen. The most common response when you’re faced with an irate homeowner is to evaluate the value of their complaint while you listen. Try to curb your instinct and listen. Acknowledge that the person has a right to be angry. Listen carefully so you can identify the root cause of the anger.
2. Listen without Emotion
Listen to what the homeowner emphasizes—the emotions as well as the words. This will help you identify what needs attention. An angry homeowner may complain about everything in the Association that he/she hasn’t agreed with, so you have to hone in on the current problem. Even though you can’t completely resolve the emotional distress, you should acknowledge it without expressing emotion yourself. Sometimes, it may be necessary to acknowledge repeatedly the homeowner’s emotion to diffuse the situation and move to resolving the issue.
3. Patiently Listen before Speaking
Conversations come in waves. Don’t interrupt when homeowner is at the peak of expressing anger, sorrow or distress. Speaking while the homeowner is erupting is like pouring gas on a fire. Wait for the homeowner to run out of steam before you reiterate your compassion and acknowledge the issue. Speak softly as you restate what you understand to be the problem. Repeating what you think you heard will reassure the homeowner that you are both on the same facts.
4. Own the Problem and the Resolution
Even if you need to work with other people or get approval to resolve the problem, tell the homeowner that you will personally handle the issue. Just knowing that the buck isn’t being passed to someone else and that you will work on the issue is enough to diffuse anger.
5. Place the Owner First, Problem Second
When dealing with irate homeowners, there are often two conflicting issues. The first is the emotional distress. The second is the problem. It’s important to acknowledge the owner’s anger first and the technical issue second. This helps you work toward diffusing the anger so you can correct the problem.
6. Analyze and Correct the Issue
Analyze the problem and provide corrective measures to avoid duplicating the problem with other owners. Make sure you address the root cause so that you correct the problem for the long term.
7. Follow Up
Close the loop with the homeowner. Even if you weren’t the person to resolve the technical issue, follow up to make sure the owner is satisfied with the corrective action. The individual attention and compassion goes a long way in establishing respect and a solid relationship in the future.