Community Living and Communications

The best and worst examples of communication happen around us, daily. One such occurrence happens in my apartment complex. Our complex has around 300 flats, and nearly 1000 people live there. Some statutes and processes define how office bearers or the management committee of the resident association need to function. And how residents need to conduct themselves as members of a community. Like many community living spaces, our complex also has adopted technology in good measure with apps, email groups, WhatsApp groups created, and used by both the Management Committee (MC) and the residents.

Here are some lessons in communication I have observed that helps in managing issues and crises while being a part of communities. These are applicable in other spheres also.

When to Communicate 

The Resident Association management committee is elected annually through an electoral process. The Committee is entrusted with the task of managing all strategic and operational affairs of the complex. It is a voluntary assignment. 

A residential complex with more than 300 residences is bound to face some issue or the other almost every day. Many issues that come up for resolution are routine like the security-related, water supply, wastewater management, maintenance of lifts, gardens, and staff related ones. 

When a resident or group of residents escalate a problem to the management committee, some respond to it immediately acknowledging the complaint. Some do not until they resolve the issue, and some don’t respond even after resolving it. Lack of response and delay in response triggers reactions that can make the problem explode into an issue. Some dwellers allude to a lack of sensitivity. 

Being sensitive and communicate when there is an issue is fundamental. Even if one doesn’t communicate regularly during normalcy, it is fine. But failure to communicate when there is a problem complicates things. People expect clarity and empathy during troubled times. Communication needs to address this. Else it leads to speculations and assumptions.

Be Honest Be Patient

The pressure to communicate and calm agitated community should not lead to miscommunication or wrong communication. Honesty in communication is equally important. If the security lapse that occurred recently takes a week to fix it, say so and explain why it takes a week. False assurance further agitates people. Don’t we see this in our workplace? It is a similar situation in a community as well. Different stakeholders put pressure for a resolution to a problem. Important not to buckle under pressure and maintain honesty.

No situation is permanent. It is good to remind oneself that, this too shall pass. When there is a problem, few residents lose their cool and start ranting on community forums. Few others join the bandwagon. As employees, when we think injustice is meted out to us our behaviour is similar. Patience is a virtue. We need to harness it.

Walk the Talk

Walk the talk, practice what you preach are common phrases or words of advice experts offer. When you are in a community and expect others to respond to you, the same applies to you as well. There are instances where residents take on the MC but refuse to support when the MC seeks it. Communication is a two street. Only then it is fruitful and collaborative.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises.

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