Homeowner associations are made up of people, and let’s face it, nobody is perfect. Even though we would love to live in a peaceful utopia, there can be discontent over a variety of issues. As we go about our day to day lives out in the world, people in conflict may choose to avoid each other rather than sort out problems. However, living in an HOA community it is much more difficult when the conflict is among neighbors. Constant battle can cause great stress, or even compel people to move away.
Conflicts arise for many reasons. Someone concealing the truth, lobbying others to support a personally motivated initiative, or seeking revenge are not productive measures. Discord can also be based on a community member not feeling understood or respected.
Being human, we have different reactions to conflict- some may choose to fight, flee, or just refuse to acknowledge a problem exists. Some may let anger get the best of them and lash out verbally, physically or legally. Unfortunately, none of these responses usually resolve a conflict, but rather serves to fuel the fire.
The only long-lasting solution is resolution. Here are a few ways to resolve conflict if and when it crops up in your community.
1. Overlook the Infraction
Consider really how big an issue is in the grand scheme of things. A person may be doing something wrong or something you don’t like, but can you let it go? Here is an example. A neighbor was upset because someone new to the area had not changed their out of state license plates after a year (they are supposed to be changed within 30 days). Yes, it’s wrong, but is it worth the angst the neighbor was experiencing on someone else’s infraction? Maybe it is a slight that personally affected you, like a neighbor crushing a bedding plant outside your lanai by stepping on it. Can you let it go? And certainly, do not stomp their plants in retaliation. An eye for an eye just leads to blindness of the peace that could be accomplished.
When an issue is too big to solve by letting it go, and emotions are running too high to negotiate one-on-one, mediation is a great alternative.
It is often hard to put aside our pride and come to a reasonable solution without a little help. Maui Mediation Services has a great reputation for solving disputes of all kinds. In mediation, a trained, neutral third party assists people when meeting face to face to resolve an issue. It is a proven effective and inexpensive way to resolve a dispute quickly.
Maui Mediation Services can also provide training, so a community can learn and build upon their own peacemaking tools.
It is against human nature to admit we are wrong. There is embarrassment and perhaps even shame if we have hurt someone’s feelings. Even if some part of your brain realizes you have behaved badly, a defense mechanism kicks in to rationalize your actions and make you feel better. Sometimes we think we are right, or more right, than the other person and our actions are justified.
However, according to Psychology Today, an apology is not a sign of weakness, and it does not constitute “backing down.” It can actually enhance one’s reputation, strengthening leadership and communication skills.
Here’s the tricky part: A true apology is one sided. It is given without any expectation of something in return, like acknowledgement, forgiveness or a reciprocal apology. If the other party has something they should apologize for, that is up to them to determine.
Taking ownership for a mistake is hard. What was done wrong should be clearly stated, an apology given, and there should be an acknowledgement of why the actions were wrong, showing you have learned something from the experience. The apology should also be brief. If the person is still upset, it is best to deliver a succinct apology then give it time to sink in.
When we put our issues behind us, there is still one more step. Extending the olive branch of peace. Not only is making amends the best way to rebuild relationships in an HOA community, it feels good! Finally letting go of the built-up hostility and anxiety will be a relief.
Reconciliation is not always easy because the receiver may not be ready to let things go. But making the effort, without expectations, are worth the effort. You will feel good that you have done your part, and your neighbor will likely come around eventually.