As much as we try to avoid it, conflict is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you spend keeping residents happy; issues still happen, emotions flare, and the next thing you know, a tenant is dissatisfied and angry. In these instances, knowing some simple tips for defusing difficult situations can help you work toward a resolution with disgruntled renters.
The first step to successfully negotiate with an unhappy resident is very simple: listen. Refrain from interrupting and ensure your body language makes it clear that you are actively listening. Although it can be extremely difficult to do so while being berated, try not to take anything personally. Keep in mind that your tenant is agitated because they have a problem, and the quickest way to resolve the issue is to find out what they need. It’s tough to address an issue if you don’t first take the time to learn about the problem.
Choose Your Words Carefully
After you make it clear that you have heard your resident, use phrases like, “I understand you’re frustrated,” or “thank you for sharing that with me,” to steer the conversation onto a constructive path. Share what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T. Avoid using negative words, like ‘no,’ ‘won’t,’ ‘don’t,’ ‘can’t,’ and ‘not.’ Stick to using “I” phrases and avoid making “you” statements. “I” statements assume some responsibility for the issue, while “you” implies a direct critique that can be poorly received. Using plural pronouns like “we” and “us” communicate that you’re working together to resolve the problem. By keeping an eye on your language, you are subtly asking your tenant to collaborate with you for the best outcome. Phrases like:
- “I want to help you.”
- “I’m on your side.”
- “I’m someone who can get you answers.”
- “We’ll find a solution.”
…will help drive the exchange in a positive direction.
Be Calm, Courteous, and Compassionate
An essential aspect of diffusing a potentially volatile situation is to demonstrate compassion. Consider your resident’s mindset—they are likely worn out from/overwhelmed by the issue at hand and could benefit from some kindness and empathy. Your approach to the situation can make all the difference. Ensure you are in the right frame of mind to effectively engage in the conversation. If you feel your blood beginning to boil, take some breaths, go on a short walk, or step away from the situation for a moment. Taking the time to calm down and focus will ensure a better outcome for everyone involved.
Has your resident come to you with a concern that you can quickly resolve? Great! Let your resident know how you plan to address the issue, your timeline for completion, and then, most importantly, follow through on addressing their complaint. In instances where you need to gather more information, be open and honest about the time and steps involved in resolving the problem. For situations that are out of your control, brainstorm alternative solutions with the resident or share outside resources that might help them.
Handling conflicts can test even the best manager/resident relationships. By actively listening, respectfully engaging in problem-solving, and following through on proposed solutions, you can neutralize and resolve difficult situations and may even improve your long-term relationships with the residents of your property.