While the world is still battling the pandemic, we yearn for normalcy to return. In many places this has happened before, while in other places it is still going on.
However, much relational damage has been done to our society and our communities. There have been many cracks in the social fabric. Consider the divides that have torn cities, communities, and even families in recent years: issues of racial justice, a divisive presidential campaign, the “red versus blue” political controversy, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear and isolation, division over vaccination and so on. While these are deeply important issues, they push us further.
Two terrible social trends have increased, creating valleys in many communities and even families. The first thing that prevails is our reluctance to listen to anyone who disagrees with us. If we think someone is wrong, the prevailing response is to refuse to negotiate with them. The common response is to disconnect – refusing to listen to what the other person has to say because they are wrong and therefore bad.
The second trend is mutual alienation. Impatience and unwillingness to tolerate differing perspectives have led to isolation and isolation, worsened by health department directives, doctor’s recommendations, or forced confinement for fear of catching a potentially deadly disease.
These trends have fostered an increasingly unhealthy environment for common interest communities. Board meetings are often more unregulated, disagreements are more likely to be hostile, and neighbors refuse to cooperate with neighbors. Our communities have become an unhealthy microcosm of a divided nation.
If we want to restore community, we have to be realistic. Our HOA will not automatically revert to a healthy culture. It will take planning and sustained action to refocus on what really matters. Being “right” should take a back seat to being a neighbor – even with people who disagree.
Thriving communities with common interests are groups of neighbors who interact with each other towards a common good. But how can healthy neighborly conversation be restored after the horrific separation we have experienced?
Managers and boards may not believe that simply doing a “good job” will be enough to restore health to communities. It is not fair to assume that people will automatically return to where we were. Such treatment would require great deliberate effort.
A single successful HOA community event will not eliminate this problem. In addition, the success of HOA events may need to be measured differently over time.
It is important for boards and managers to have a long-term strategy focused on rebuilding a sense of community, with shared core values, despite differing opinions and backgrounds. Boards can lead the way by emphasizing civil and respectful behavior not only in the meeting audience but also around the board’s table.
HOAs made up of alienated neighbors who refuse to negotiate except fight will suffer, be vulnerable and keep lawyers busy. But that event, as horrifying as it sounds, jeopardizes even the most basic benefit of the common good of community life. If we have nothing in common, what is left to justify the existence of an HOA?
In recovery programs, the first step towards healing is initiated by admitting that someone has a problem. We are all part of that problem. Can we start working to be part of the recovery now? What are your thoughts? Please send them to [email protected] – let’s work on this together.
Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. A Fellow of the Community Association’s College of Lawyers and a partner in Richardson Ober Denicillo LLP, a law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions at [email protected]