Quick Tips: Diffusing an Argument with a Resident or Co-worker

Step #1: Breath!
Your first reaction during an argument is to fire back a retort.  This is not productive.  If a resident or a
colleague confronts you, take a quick moment and take a deep breath.  This will give you a second to get
your bearings and slow down your thoughts.
Step #2: Delay if necessary
You and the person you are arguing with are likely not in the position to have a rational discussion about
your disagreements.  A little bit of time for everyone to collect their thoughts will help the situation.  Tell
them something like, “Jim, I understand you’re upset, I am too.  Let’s both take a few minutes to collect
our thoughts and meet in a half hour to talk about this”.
Step #3: Really listen
Really listening is different than sitting silently.  The person most likely does not feel like you understand
their viewpoints, or even them as a person.  Try to absorb what they are saying and see things through
their point of view.  This does not mean you have to agree with them, but rather you need to step out of
yourself for a moment to view the situation from the outside.
Step #4: Confirm that you received their message
Again, this does not mean you agree with your resident or co-worker, but rather that you heard them.
Restate what they said to you in the form of a question.  For example, “Okay Jim, so if I understand
right, you think X, Y and Z need to be fixed in the leasing office?”  If there was any miscommunication,
this is a great opportunity for both parties to clear up what is on the table.  It could be very helpful to jot
down light notes while talking to keep the points straight, but make sure you inform the individual of
why you are taking notes so they know you’re paying attention to them.
Step #5: Make sure your message was received
Just as in Step #4, make sure that they understand your case.  It can be easy in a sensitive situation like
this to come off as condescending, so an easy way to avoid this is to ask them to summarize your points.
This will give you an easy opportunity to fill in the blanks.
Step #6: What we agree on
It is likely from the beginning that you already agreed with some of their viewpoints and if their points
are reasonable, you likely agree with a thing or two more that they’ve said.  Let them know this as it will
narrow down the scope of what needs to be fixed and give an instant feeling of progress that will help
you with the next steps.
Step #7: What we don’t agree on
You’ve gotten to this point, things are calming down a little bit, both party’s blood pressure is down.
Now you need to set the table for coming to a conclusion by stating out the final areas that both parties
don’t agree on.  Make sure this isn’t one sided and that you both are agreeing on the problems that
divide you.
Step #8: Put some options on the table for evaluation
You now see the full picture and can give some constructive plans for how to resolve the issue.  In some
cases, this might offer immediate relief to the situation, such as letting a resident who is a victim of
domestic violence move into a second story unit.  Others may require more time, such as a co-worker
grievance that requires a few calls to your corporate office.  Whatever the case, agreeing on a gameplan
lets both parties leave the situation feeling like progress is going to be made.
Step #9: Follow up
Many situations will not be immediately resolved, so it is vital for a property manager to make notes on
their calendar to follow up with the individual, especially if it is a resident that they don’t see frequently.
Ask the individual what the best method of reaching out to them is, and then set the expectation of
Date and Time that you will reach out to them.  This will confirm that you are invested, good resolution
or not on dealing with their situation promptly.
Step #10:  Not everything has a solution
You are not always going solve everyone’s problems and it is important to accept this and understand
that the process of talking through an issue is as important as solving it.  Whether it’s your employees or
your residents, just keep the lines of good communication open and your property operations will
immediately be smoother and more enjoyable!


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