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I’d Like To Argue My Case: Part 1

February 3, 2010

The other night we had a condo association meeting to try and figure out why our condo board recently decided to suddenly special assess all the members with a $35k bill to replace our roof.  The roof had been leaking for quite sometime and we all knew it needed replacing (especially me, after dirty water started pouring in through the ceiling fan and closet in our bedroom this past fall), but the association had agreed to pursue a long-term loan in lieu of an assessment to pay for the replacement.  Instead, without warning, we get a letter telling us that almost $4,000 is due in less than 7 weeks.  Many residents were livid and sent feverish e-mails to the board and the management company asking what had happened.  The answers we received were incomplete and made little sense so 4 of us demanded a special meeting to make sure this never happened again.

I was nervous going in to this meeting because I am not good at confrontation.  Well, in certain situations I am with certain people, but I didn’t know what to expect in this case and I was ill-at-ease.  I had typed up a 2 page timeline of events, chronicling e-mails and varying responses, as well as a list of questions I wanted answered.  I sat down in the room with my fellow owners, the 3 board members, and a representative from the management company.  A couple of people started in with their concerns, the primary one being the lack of communication from the board and the management company regarding the change in plans and the decision-making process.  I repeatedly pointed out that I had contacted the board and particularly the management company regarding the leaking in my unit, the status of the long-term loan application, and the special assessment and received either no or incomplete responses.  The board stated that the management company was supposed to be the mouthpiece.  I asked what we were supposed to do when the mouthpiece wasn’t responding to contacts.  Finally the management company rep, whom I’ll call “A,” had had enough of being demonized and blurted out that she gets too many e-mails from us, that she doesn’t have time to read long e-mails all day, that she had sent me the information that I had requested and she wasn’t going to “fight” with me.  I sat there stunned at her lack of professionalism and self-restraint.  I calmly said that she did not give me the information I had requested and she simply yelled over me that she had.  I later asked for a timeline of events and she recounted several dates that I had sent e-mails to her that in no way matched up to my timeline.

After we left the meeting I was furious.  I was furious that “A” had singled me out and painted me as this crazy person sending her 15 paragraph e-mails every other day.  I was angry at her unprofessionalism and denial of any wrongdoing.  But I was also angry at myself.  I came home thinking of all the things I could have said in response to her.  I wanted to tell her to calm down, to stop yelling and being so defensive and take responsibility for her lack of communication with the association (EVERYONE, even the current board, has complained that “A” does not respond to pointed e-mails and telephone calls).  I wanted to dispute her recounting of the numerous e-mails I had sent (the next day I checked my e-mail account and confirmed that I had sent exactly 5 e-mails in the 3 months leading up to and immediately following the roof replacement; 2 of them were asking for replies to the previous e-mails I’d sent).  But I hadn’t.  I just moved on.  I went over and over in my head all the ways it could have played out if only I had said. . . I thought about all those times in my life that I walked away wishing I had stood up for myself more, corrected inaccurate accusations, not tried to be the “bigger person” and shut that other party the hell down.  I wanted to know how to be a better arguer.

The following day I had lunch with my two good friends who also happen to be attorneys.  They argue for a living and having seen them both in action, both in the court and in real life, I wanted to know what made them so good at standing their ground in an argument.  So I decided to ask them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 3:52 am

    I can’t wait for part two!!!! WHAT DID THEY SAY????

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