“Quarrel” has been defined as “the minimum number of people required to hold an argument”. One of the many challenges facing homeowner associations is resolving disputes between neighbors. Noise, parking, garbage, pets, trees, fences and other territorial based conflicts can erupt any time. Most conflicts result from false assumptions and, according to the prison warden in the movie “Cool Hand Luke”, a failure to communicate. Neighbors, wanting to avoid confrontation, stew over issues until their emotional pot boils over, usually scalding innocent bystanders. What now?
Conflict is a natural part of human relationships. Self interest is a top priority while others interests are usually somewhere down the list (WAY down). People become embroiled because interests or values are challenged. Here are a few suggestions for quelling the quarrel:
Know What’s What: The board wasn’t elected to babysit or police neighbor squabbles. Some issues are association, some are not. Don’t take on personality conflict issues. People that can’t get along often look for others (you) to blame. Don’t get involved unless it affects the harmony of the community.
Let Them Deal With It: If the issue is a personality conflict, suggest they discuss and resolve it like adults. If they won’t, let it go. Don’t encourage immature behavior.
Clarify the Issue: If the issue impacts the whole community, clarify it. What seems to be isn’t always what is. Ask each party what they think “it” is.
Facilitating Discussion: If the association’s interests are involved, here are several tips for facilitating the discussion:
Schedule a convenient time to talk
Agree on a neutral place for the meeting.
Stick the facts. Steer clear of “He said, she said”.
Avoid blaming, insults and exaggerations which make it difficult to consider other viewpoints.
Listen, even if you disagree, to better focus on the issues.
Defuse hostility. Let them know you understand they are angry or upset. Explore what’s behind the emotion.
Direct the conversation toward solutions.
Question their assertions:
Too many/much/little/few. Compared to what?
You never… What would happen if we did?
We’ve tried that already… What was the outcome?
The only way is… Yes, that’s one option. Any others?
It will never work… What would work?
Good conflict resolution focuses on needs, not positions. It is indeed possible to quell the quarrel. Harmonizing your HOA should be a top priority.