How to Get Your Residents (or Board) to Agree (Even When You Think They Never Will)

It’s time to reach a decision. Really, it’s probably past time, since it’s been dragging on for awhile now. But you’re having a hard time getting everyone on board. How are you ever going to get your residents to agree? Take a deep breath and keep reading. We’re going to show you how to build consensus, a.k.a. getting people to agree without shouting (or at least, maybe only a little).

Where to Start When You Think There’s No End in Sight

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. ~John Lydgate

You’ve probably heard this piece of advice before (or its adaptation about fooling people). As long as you don’t sigh heavily at the end of the sentence, this is a sound piece of advice. When you’re trying to build a consensus, sometimes you’ve got to realize that you probably won’t reach 100% agreement. Getting the majority to agree will be the closest you’re likely to get, and that throwing more time and frustration at the issue isn’t going to change it. (and yes, if the association bylaws say something different about majority rules, you’ll need to follow those).

Now, how do you even get that far? Here are steps to identifying what’s going on and the best ways to address it.

Straw poll. You’ve got to know where things stand before you dig into it. You can use Condo Ally’s handy tool to conduct a fast, secure poll. No one needs to raise their hand in front of the group, just click their answer!

Identify. Before you can try to fix it,  you need to figure out what kind of disagreement it is. Could it be:

  • Something that’s going on beyond the scope of the association business? It could be a personal issue like job stress or their family life. We’ll call this type 1.
  • Because they’re not listening to the issue at hand, but rather rejecting it because of a bias of some sort? Maybe their neighbor is for the solution, which automatically makes them against it. This is type 2.
  • A genuinely held belief that’s not going to change? This is type 3.

Be clear. On both the decision to be made and how it will be implemented. That will help people be more comfortable with their decision.

Your role as the association manager isn’t just about the paperwork, it’s also about the people. And if your group isn’t agreeing, you’ll need to make sure you’re using your soft skills, too. Here are some ways to encourage more positive group interactions.

consensus buildingEqual: everyone’s opinion is weighed and considered equally. This isn’t about whether you agree with the opinion, it’s about allowing everyone an opportunity to be heard. Maybe someone is the middle of a type 1 issue and simply listening to their thoughts on the association matter will help. Remember: listening isn’t agreeing or supporting. Stephen Covey’s talking stick can be an effective method.

Collaborate, not compete: this isn’t a contest to be won or lost. This is where you all live! That means that the process of reaching a decision shouldn’t be looked at as a battle. It’s an opportunity to work together for something, not against it. This is especially true if it’s a type 2 disagreement, where people may be against something just because. Is there a person in the group both parties like and would listen to? Enlist them to help during group discussions.

Firm. You may find a type 3 disagreement is making things difficult for everyone. Know when to take a break, or to end a discussion. A sincerely held belief isn’t going to change, and neither will their decision. But that doesn’t mean the group is their forum to vent or berate. You’ll need to find a way to get beyond it, in a way that fits your own style and works for the group.

The Bottom Line on Consensus Building

Not every group will agree on every issue, that’s true. And when there is disagreement, it’s probably not your favorite thing to deal with. Having a clear plan for deciding the issue, and implementing the decision, can go a long way. Not only will it help your current vote, but it will help in the future, too. As the group sees your ability to create a fair process and stand by that decision, they’ll trust your leadership. That’s a win-win for everyone!

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