As with any relationship in life, we all hope for harmony but, inevitably, we all will experience our share of “difficult” people. Some may remember their first encounter with that “other kid” at preschool who would always take the toy we were playing with. Others may recall the co-worker later in life who made every meeting unbearable with his constant complaints or comments. Serving on a board of directors or committee for a homeowners association (HOA) can be challenging in many ways; dealing with individuals who are difficult is part of the landscape. However, there are issues to consider, whether we are the recipient or even the cause of this negativity.
There are some fundamental techniques in dealing with these challenging personalities, whether you encounter them at an HOA meeting or just walking around a neighborhood. First, try to understand what motivates people to be difficult. Some owners may attend a board meeting because they received a covenant violation notice; realize that there could be other underlying reasons for the tirade. Second, don’t discount the value of criticism. There is sometimes value amongst all that negativity; perhaps if we step back from our defensive inclinations, we might find a great suggestion or solution. Finally, maintain realistic expectations. It’s true that an HOA has rules, but those rules may have just enough flexibility to enable you to work with the homeowner to come to a simple solution.
Your condo board has just approved a large special assessment to finance the replacement of an aging heating and cooling system, and your owners are not pleased. But one owner in particular is infuriated by the decision. He shouts obscenities at the board during the meeting and continues to hurl insults at the board president after the session ends, blocking the door as the president tries to leave the room. He repeats those insults every time he sees the president, and bombards the board with unflattering e-mails. Four months later, these verbal assaults continue.
Is this just exceptionally boorish behavior, which the board should ignore? Or do this angry owner’s actions constitute harassment, which you can and should take steps to address?
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Philip Reid’s small dog, Paolo, is hardly the kind of animal to strike fear in the hearts of children. Yet two African Muslim girls were anything but delighted as Reid walked the Boston terrier-pug blend on a leash at his culturally diverse, mixed income neighborhood.
“The girls were running by, and they screamed when they Saw him, and I said ‘He’s not going to hurt you'” recalls Reid. “They said it’s a religious thing, and I was kind of Shocked.”
Reid did his homework and learned, sure enough, many Muslims avoid dogs, believing them to be unclean animals. In fact, Muslims who come into contact with dog saliva are obligated to go through elaborate cleansing rituals.