3 Ways to Effectively Communicate and Resolve Difficult Situations Virtually

For many of us, virtual interactions have become the new normal in the workplace. Virtual meetings through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and even webinars are a great and convenient way to communicate with one another, but the nuance of the meaning in the message can be diluted through virtual communication. In these cases, a lack of effective communication can lead to difficult situations. We need to find ways to effectively communicate and resolve difficult situations virtually. We must be willing to adjust our communication methods to accommodate the needs of others for the most effective communication.

During your next meeting, request that your team provide candid and honest feedback about the effectiveness of your communication. Although it may feel uncomfortable to accept criticism, if the way you are communicating is not working, it is crucial to become aware and understand what can be done to improve. Ask people directly what they need to help eliminate some difficult situations before they even occur.

We all strive to conduct positive interactions with residents and successful, profitable interactions with prospects, but sometimes we hit roadblocks and experience undesirable behaviors. This can be especially true in this time of COVID-19 and virtual leasing and other interactions. We are not able to have the daily face-to-face interactions we had previously, and this can create frustration from residents and prospects alike. When dealing with the difficult situations our limited interaction can cause, be sure to consider the various personalities, temperaments, challenges, successes, celebrations, and emotions of the people involved. Keep in mind that each person is having their own unique experience each day, and this can impact the success of the reception of our communication, especially virtually, when we cannot always see the person we are interacting with.

Most of the time, difficult situations arise as a result of an event and the event can cause a conflict. Generally, it is the event or conflict the other person is upset with and not you personally. Since not all difficult situations are avoidable, handle them with grace, professionalism, and empathy. Apologize for the situation and provide an explanation for what happened.  If the other person needs to vent their frustration, simply listen.

Everyone can be difficult sometimes and this is just as true with virtual interactions. People are the same despite the changes we are all dealing with. When someone is upset and appears difficult, it is often natural to feel defensive and take the undesirable behavior personally. Remember to maintain focus on what the person is actually upset about rather than allowing yourself to focus on their behavior. Right now, everything is changing, and many people do not deal well with change, putting them more on edge. Although you cannot control another person’s behavior or reactions, you can change your perspective. Always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes before responding. A change in perspective can help you respond in a way that makes them feel like you are on their “team”. Try these 3 ways to effectively communicate and resolve difficult situations virtually.

1. Focus on the intention. NEVER focus on the behavior; ALWAYS focus on the situation. It is not easy but avoid making assumptions. Instead, try to assume positive intent and maintain focus on the next best steps.

2. Stay calm. Pause before responding so you do not respond to emotion with emotion. Doing so can continue the cycle. Instead, staying calm and responding in a slow, even ‘tone’ can help the other person calm down. This can best be accomplished by focusing on your breathing.

3. Be respectful. Although you need to be assertive when communicating policy, remember to always be professional. Keep a positive and respectful tone, even in virtual communication, on the telephone and though email.

Another important consideration to effectively communicate and resolve difficult situations virtually is identifying your own triggers. Most people are typically triggered by:

  • Opposing beliefs and values – People are easily triggered by opposing beliefs or values as they cause us to feel threatened.
  • Past trauma – Previous trauma is a major trigger. When something triggers our past trauma, we respond with extreme fear, panic or even anger!
  • Ego preservation – Ego is our sense of self and when that is threatened, we are triggered! People will fight passionately when ego is challenged.

If you can identify your own triggers in advance, they will be easier to deal with when they are activated. What do we do when we are triggered? If possible, remove your attention from the person or situation and focus on your breathing. If you are not able to avoid the trigger, you can excuse yourself temporarily, especially if you find you are not effectively communicating due to being triggered. Afterward, review why you were so triggered by the situation. The more you can understand why you are triggered by certain things, the more you can be successful handling those situations.

Despite all the advice around managing your response during difficult situations, do not forget to allow yourself the opportunity to experience emotion! Do not repress emotion; instead, find healthy ways to express your emotions later, in private or with a trusted confidant.

Sometimes, it is our own behaviors that contribute to or even cause a difficult situation! How do you respond to a problem? Do you initially respond with frustration or anger? Do you complain and display a negative attitude? Take a moment to calm yourself and think about a solution before responding. As a supervisor you can observe and provide constructive feedback to your team when you see troublesome behavior.

Remember these five steps to help you manage through difficult situations:

  1. Do not take it personally when you are the recipient of a person’s upset behavior
  2. Do not take it out on others when you are personally upset
  3. Find the root cause so you deal with the situation and not someone’s behavior or reaction
  4. Apologize (You do not have to own blame for the issue; but you CAN apologize for the hardship caused)
  5. Empathize by trying to understand the other person’s perspective

You will be most effective when you LEARN (Listen, Empathize, Acknowledge, Restate Needs).

After addressing a difficult situation:

  • Always follow up after the situation has resolved.
  • Do not hold a grudge.
  • Continue to develop the relationship by finding common ground.

You cannot eliminate the occurrence of difficult situations, but these tools will help you effectively communicate and resolve difficult situations virtually when they arise.

Click here to access additional COVID-19 Multifamily Training Resources

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Contributed by:

Pam Roberts Pederson
Director of Engagement and Communications
Edge2Learn

Pam began her career over 30 years ago with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her next role led her to the Gene B. Glick Company where she enjoyed 23 years in various positions, including the Director of Training for 9 years. Pam has volunteered with the Indiana Apartment Association for over 15 years receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2011.


Edge2Learn is an eLearning company whose focus is the Property Management Industry and specializes in property management training and multifamily education. With over 30 years of experience and a commitment to increase industry excellence, we are passionate about engaging learners to maximize benefits for both companies and employees. Aligned with a well-respected industry leader, Ellis, Partners in Management Solutions, the Edge2Learn platform provides a turnkey solution for clearly identified needs and opportunities. We prepare learners to deliver a superior customer experience and also reduce corporate liability risks and overall employee turnover.

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