Working as a multifamily leasing professional involves a multitude of interactions each day in a full spectrum of situations. The unfortunate reality is that some of those situations can be difficult or unpleasant, but you can develop skills to identify and either avoid or effectively address them before they escalate. You can also turn those difficult situations into opportunities to learn how to better serve residents and co-workers. We’ll also discuss best practices to improve team communication and direct reporting of situations in real time.
How to Defuse Difficult Situations
Throughout the day at any residential property management site, you will likely have encounters with prospects, residents, vendors, service professionals and your work colleagues. Most of these encounters will be successful, but occasionally you will find yourself interacting with someone displaying difficult or unpleasant behaviors. It’s important to keep in mind that each person you interact with is coming with their own full inventory of experiences which affect the way they are prepared to interact in that moment. Interactions can be affected by any or all of the following:
Many times, difficult situations arise as a result of a disappointing event, but it’s the resulting conflict that creates the difficulty, not the disappointing event itself. Remember, conflict can be instigated not only because of the other person, but because of our own triggers as well. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of our own triggers so we can work to mitigate our responses and potentially avoid conflict. Work to maintain perspective. When a person is disappointed or otherwise dissatisfied, it’s easy to lose perspective and become overwhelmed in the emotional reaction. The key to handling difficult situations is to act with grace, professionalism and empathy.
Everyone Can Be Difficult
Acknowledge that everyone can be difficult depending on the factors involved in a situation…even you! When you encounter someone who is upset and seems difficult, a natural reaction is to become defensive and even take the behavior personally. This can cause you to become reactive and not think through your response. Instead, you should strive to:
- Focus on the Intention – When faced with a difficult or unpleasant interaction, remain focused on the root cause of the situation rather than the difficult behaviors of the other person. Do you best to separate the emotions from the message and assume positive intention.
- Stay Calm – Take a small break – a pause, a deep breath, a short exit from the room – to help you stay calm. If you need to ask the person to wait just a moment and leave the room to collect yourself, you may be able to return to the situation with renewed calm. Work to speak in a slow, pleasant tone and this may help model calm behavior for the other person.
- Be Respectful – Although it is important to remain assertive, it is crucial to be respectful in your tone and your response and to keep your own emotions in check. The best way for you to accomplish this is to know your own triggers.
What Are YOUR Triggers?
- Opposing Beliefs and Values – When we strongly identify with a particular set of beliefs or values, it can be very difficult to identify with and tolerate someone with opposing beliefs or values. However, it is imperative that we put those beliefs and values aside in the professional capacity and do not allow them to cloud our abilities to resolve professional conflict.
- Trauma – People who have experienced previous trauma can be triggered by exposures which act as reminders of that trauma. These exposures can involve any of the five senses and can result in an extreme reaction of either fear, panic or even anger. It is helpful to identify any trauma-related triggers you may have so that you can identify them as they occur and give yourself the space you need to step away and collect yourself.
- Ego Preservation – Ego is a sense of self and is composed of thoughts, memories, cultural values, assumptions, belief structures, etc. Everyone has an ego and when a person feels their ego is being threatened, that person can be triggered and become very defensive. In a professional setting, you need to remember to put your ego in check and avoid taking statements personally. When you are involved in a negative business interaction, you must separate the emotions from the matter at hand.
What to Do Once You’ve Been Triggered
- Remove yourself or your attention from the emotion and focus on the issue.
- Focus on your breathing to help you stay calm and centered.
- Take a break and remove yourself from the situation for a moment to allow yourself to calm down.
- When possible, find humor in the situation.
- Ask yourself why you have been triggered; evaluate why the situation is personally upsetting to allow you deconstruct and find a sense of calm and regain control.
- Acknowledge that experiencing feelings is okay, although you should not act out on them at the time. Find a time later to vent those feelings in a constructive way.
- NEVER express your personal feelings about a professional matter on social media.
Turning Difficult Situations into Opportunities
You are bound to encounter “difficult residents” from time to time in the course of your workday. Let’s consider what makes someone a “difficult resident”. These are generally residents who communicate with anger or frustration on a regular basis and they seem hostile. This is commonly used to describe residents in crisis who express themselves in a fashion that comes across as annoying, cranky, obnoxious or disrespectful. Consider changing your perspective regarding “difficult residents”. Residents are not a problem; they are an opportunity! Residents should be our priority and we can involve them in investigating a solution. This could lead to a new way of doing things that could benefit everyone. Some leasing training tips to defuse and successfully address resident concerns include:
- Don’t take it personally
- Find the root cause
- Apologize for their hardship
- Empathize with the resident
- Use the “LEARN” module – Learn, Empathize, Acknowledge, Restate, Needs
- Always follow up
- Don’t hold a grudge
- Develop the relationship
Best Practices to Improve Communications with Your Team or Coworkers
Another important area of connection includes your relationship with your team in the office. Working to avoid negative situations with your coworkers will make for a less stressful and more productive work environment for everyone! Ask yourself how you are contributing. Is your contribution helping or making things worse? One habit to note is complaining; this does not contribute to the overall morale of the team. Work to be a positive influence in the office and you will help maintain a positive workplace morale which will help everyone better deal with difficult situations when they arise!
Director of Engagement and Communications, Edge2Learn