GoodLandlordTalk: How to collect the rent when emotions are high!

A column for landlords wanting to do well by doing good. This month: Managing anger for a better bottom line.

Guest Writer Peter Shapiro, pshapiro@mediationforresults.org, 617 494-0444 ext 317

It’s already the 21st of the month and no rent – again! You were patient last month, but not this time!  Had you not been pursuing this tenant for weeks you’d be calmer, but now you’re mad.  You also need to buy food and pay your phone bill!

You want to lash out at this tenant and feel justified doing so.  Will this help though?  You do want the rent.  But don’t you also want the kind of relationship that will make it easiest to collect it the next time — and next after that?  You can always exercise your rights.  Why not do the most possible to secure the rent cooperatively before using your rights, making threats, hiring lawyers and going to court.

Being angry is real, and is a part of life.   How well you express it, though, can make or break your success as a landlord.   If done without yelling or blaming, conveying anger can increase your effectiveness.  When our anger gets ahold of us, however, we can speak our minds — but destroy relationships and reduce cooperation when it’s most needed – in this case to get paid!

How can you best channel your anger when the feelings are strong?  We know how overpowering the urge is to lash out in certain instances.  “Speak when you’re angry, however, and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret” (Ambrose Bierce). A more deliberate approach – restraining the anger to make cooperation more likely — can help secure the rent this month — and next!

Here are four tips for managing anger the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed but need to negotiate.

Pause:  Do not make any decisions when you’re angry.   Before taking next steps with your tenant, take four long, slow, deep breaths; ask for a break; ask a distracting question that will buy time to think; or whatever else that will let you pause to allow the anger to subside.  When you are more calm and clear-headed, you’ll be more able to proceed.

Talk to someone, write it down, walk it off, or do anything else that can allow your composure to return.   Find a friend, family member, neighbor, coworker, colleague, or anyone who has the time to listen.  Creating an opportunity to talk it out can make a huge difference.  You need this to be able to think clearly before AND during contact with your tenant.

Prepare before you make contact with your tenant: Consider how you want to have contact with your tenant.  What form of communication will be best?  You can try a more reasoned approach this time. Your goal should be to get a workable agreement without the use of threats unless absolutely needed.

Listen and learn: Although it may be contrary to your instincts, try seeking first to understand before being understood.  Ask your tenant what’s going on before you respond.  (Listening by the way doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree).  When your tenant is able to feel acknowledged and understood, s/he may then be receptive and agreeable to your requests.

In my experience, this approach can get you bottom line results more quickly and at lower cost.  You’ll be happier as well!

Peter’s book, The Good Landlord, is available for sale at MassLandlords events.

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