MHCO Article: Taking Conflict to Cooperation

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It has happened to everyone; you pick up the phone smiling with your cheerful greeting only to have the person on the other end start yelling before you can even get your name out. Maybe you are out walking your property and a resident confronts you about their annoying neighbor and wants to know "what are you going to do about it? "Or, you are in your office with a prospect when your most demanding resident bursts in demanding to speak with you. Sound familiar?


Simply put, controlling conflict is part of the job. Residents, Prospects, Vendors, and even other team members can be sources of conflict for us. Conventional wisdom (and research) says that good communication can improve relationships, increasing trust and support. The converse is also true: poor communication can weaken bonds, creating mistrust and even contempt.


If we know that communication is the key to eliminating, or at least minimizing conflict, why can it be so difficult? It's typically because we have a very clear idea of "our side" of the argument. To solve a problem, it helps to stop for a moment to wonder what the other person us thinking. Here are some tips:


  1. Empathy

We have all heard the expression, "put yourself in the others' shoes", and this is great advice when dealing with a conflict. This does not mean you must agree with the other person, but by placing yourself in their situation you are demonstrating your desire to solve whatever problem they have brought to you.


  1. Improve Your Listening Skills


It is important to develop active listening skills. Glancing at your phone or computer screen while a resident is trying to talk to you is not only disrespectful, you are probably adding fuel to their already heightened sense of aggravation. When possible move the conversation away from a desk so that there is a level playing field without a barrier to communication. Try repeating back to them "Here is what I heard you say, is that correct?". This solidifies that you are paying attention and that their issue is important to you.


  1. Keep Your Emotions In Check


Okay, so this is a hard one! You work hard and take pride in your job. It is only natural for you to defend and protect your livelihood. It is vital that you do not jump to any conclusions and stay focused on the matter. You can achieve this by asking questions and taking notes to assure that you are understanding all the information correctly. If you allow yourself to get defensive the situation will only escalate and remember, you are there to solve the conflict, not make it worse. Many people have a difficult time expressing themselves, and the same words may have different meanings to different people. When our emotions are engaged, we tend to hear only what we want to hear. This can trigger our "flight or fight" response and this will add to the conflict rather than solve it. Monitor your voice tone and volume, be ready to listen, and then speak to be understood.


  1. Cooling Off Difficult People


There will always be loud and inflexible customers who feel that they have been treated poorly, or have preconceived ideas about you and your company. Some people are just difficult! We need to focus on our job: reaching a deeper understanding of the issue and solve it. This means listening attentively, do not interrupt, let them vent, and acknowledge how important the issue is and reflect it to them. Remind them that you there to find a solution and focus on the things we CAN do to help.

This does not mean you must sit there and accept any abuse from anyone. If a customer is verbally abusive you should remain civil, but tell then the truth about the effect of their attitude. Try this: "I care very much about your problem but when you speak to me this way I find it difficult to focus on a solution". This is a solution oriented response that lets them know that you will not tolerate any more of their verbal attacks.

Document the conversation.


  1. Stay Calm and Move On


Here is the good news - not every customer interaction is negative. It's just that those situations are so unpleasant we tend to dwell on them. Self-preservation demands that you stay calm - take a deep breath, don't take it personally, take a break, and don't repeat the story to everyone you see for the rest of the day. This behavior will intensify your emotions and it becomes the proverbial "fish" story. The more you tell it, the bigger the story becomes. Continually reliving the incident can change what really happened into a story you have told yourself. Focus on the positives and solutions that emerged from the incident and take pride in handling the situation.

Take some advice from Taylor Swift and "Shake It Off"!


Being polite goes a long way towards appropriately dealing with difficult people and resolving conflict. Work to maintain your sense of humor and difficulties will roll off your back much easier. Increasing your problem-solving skills will significantly reduce problems in your community, as well as show your employer that you are representing them in a positive and productive manner.


Angel Rogers has over 25 years of Property Management experience. She has been teaching for various Associations for 15 years and has successfully launched her own training company, S.T.A.R. - Specialized Training by Angel Rogers. She is dedicated to providing educational sessions that are motivational and create a fun learning environment. Angel can be reached at (909)725-2700 or - check out her website:

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