You can use one simple strategy to calm down your most indignant tenants

Estimated read time 5 min read

There are few skills more important than the ability to deescalate situations when dealing with angry tenants. If you’ve ever dealt with tenants before, you know that there are always a few who are unhappy.

Tenants at the very least, some tenants have a tendency to be very angry with you.

Human nature is to be defensive or to at least get angry at the person. Argumentating with them to defend your position is the natural reaction. The natural reaction is to raise your voice if they raise theirs. The natural reaction to someone insulting you is to defend yourself, and even go as far as insulting them. It’s a vicious cycle of tat for tat. It’s important, however, to take the opposite path to what your natural instincts tell you. Be empathetic, not defensive. Don’t raise your voice, but speak more calmly.

A different approach is simply escalating a situation.

The opposite of what feels natural

Dale Carnegie’s , How to Win friends and influence people is a great place to begin learning this skill.

Dale Carnegie stresses the importance of doing the opposite to what comes naturally. Don’t be defensive or angry if they are mad at you. Turn the script to empathize and sympathize with your opponent. I’m not saying to blame yourself, or to give in to their demands. I don’t recommend being a doormat. It’s all about presentation. Here, I want to emphasize the how and not the what.

I’m just trying to be sympathetic with their problem. A few years ago, we had a receptionist who was excellent at this. She would answer a call from someone who was angry about an issue with maintenance.

“Oh no! That’s awful. Let’s get this taken care of immediately. Please describe the issue so that I can create a maintenance order.

Or something similar. Notice that she places us and the tenants on the same side: “Let’s get this taken care of.” We are the tenant’s ally. Why would anyone be angry with their ally?

Related: 6 things every landlord should do to win over the hearts of tenants (a renter’s perspective! )

It’s also important to avoid contact with those who are angry at you. It’s a normal reaction, but it is the wrong way to handle a situation. The mold problem was small but grew out of control. We ended up terminating the lease of the tenants because of the anger they were expressing.

Why were they so angry? The mold problem was a part of the issue, but it was easily resolved. Our property manager refused to return their calls. In the tenants’ minds, it was as if she had told them that she didn’t give a damn about them. She wouldn’t have cared if they were dying of a horrible pulmonary disease. She was actually embarrassed by the situation and was nervous about calling. Do not let this happen to you. Keep in touch even if it is uncomfortable.

Fair But Firm

When it comes to collections, evictions or deposit refunds, you must be fair, but also firm, and have good documentation. You can use the documentation to explain why someone owes what they owe, without being defensive or blaming. This is just the truth. Don’t get mad. Do not match their tone. Empathize with the person.

My brother, who is our property manager, has mastered the art of this. He is called the “Tenant whisperer” in some parts of the office for his ability to make tenants who come into the office angry leave the office smiling and saying “thanks”. This is done by always being on the tenant’s side. You can say, for example, “I understand that it is a difficult situation, but here’s how much it will cost to repair the damage, and this documentation.”

Be Your Tenant’s Ally

You can make something else your “enemy” – the lease, the company policy, the law or even the owner. The property manager is not the enemy. You, as a property manager, are actually the tenant’s friend. You could say, “I understand how difficult this is, but we must follow the lease and the lease requires that we charge these costs.” Legally, we cannot make an exception unless it is for everyone. In this case, the rules dictated by a lease, law or policy, or the owner, are “the enemy”.

The same principle applies to our family, friends, and colleagues. You’ll be amazed at how quickly someone calms down when you empathize and don’t match the anger of others. It’s so common that it has a scientific name: “social evidence.” In general, people tend to mimic or follow the behavior and tone of those around them. They may not begin calmly, but will most likely become calm if you are calm.

When everyone feels calm and like they’re on the same side, it is much easier to find a solution that is acceptable or a win-win situation. Fight back and you will only make them dig their heels in. Remember that in tenant relations, the opposite of what you feel natural will often produce the best results.

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