How To Handle Negative Individuals During Your Open House

How To Handle Negative Individuals During Your Open House

I Love The Assisted Living Business.

The people involved are beautiful spirits. It is the only business environment I have seen where “competing” businesses uniformly help each other. But, in my opinion, there are a few challenges that these good souls should not have to bear.

In my roles as President of the Residential Assisted Living National Association and as an attorney for assisted living businesses, I hear horror stories about government public meetings or “Open House” meetings with the neighborhood at least once per month. Otherwise decent people will spout depraved insults against the good-hearted people who are in the business of helping seniors.

Almost uniformly, the victims of such meetings will tell me, “Brian, if I could get them to look at the data, they would see . . .”

Perhaps, but not likely. You are working with a crowd and not with an individual. I have lead public meetings in over 500 communities around the world and they are usually baffling.

There are some important tools to keep in mind when structuring your meetings with “the neighbors” that can help and I will share those with you a bit later in the article. First, please understand that the psychology of crowds has been a focus for study for almost 200 years. This study has lead to the marketing and political techniques commonly used today.

Check out the observation made 178 years ago from one of the men credited with developing the foundations for modern marketing. Gustave Le Bon.

“The violence of the feelings of crowds is also increased, especially in heterogeneous crowds, by the absence of all sense of responsibility. The certainty of impunity, a certainty the stronger as the crowd is more numerous, and the notion of a considerable momentary force due to number, make possible in the case of crowds sentiments and acts impossible for the isolated individual. In crowds, the foolish, ignorant, and envious persons are freed from the sense of their insignificance and powerlessness, and are possessed instead by the notion of brutal and temporary but immense strength.

Unfortunately, this tendency of crowds towards exaggeration is often brought to bear upon bad sentiments. These sentiments are atavistic residuum of the instincts of the primitive man (the remaining pieces of ancient instincts), which the fear of punishment obliges the isolated and responsible individual to curb. Thus it is that crowds are so easily led into the worst excesses.”

THE CROWD A STUDY OF THE POPULAR MIND, GUSTAVE LE BON May 7, 1841

In other words, brought together in a group, the worst instincts of otherwise rational individuals is loosed upon the world. A group does not evaluate data.  Individuals evaluate data.

Great, but I have to have an open house. What do you do?

Firstly, prevent them from forming a group until everyone is mostly friendly.  Provide a guided tour with several stopping points where INDIVIDUALS can interact with you or one of your teammates to answer questions. I have seen a Highway Department do this with a series of tables distributed throughout an area. This forces individuals to move through an area and present any questions they may have. You can handle a few nasty individuals. Don’t let those nasties contaminate the rest of the group – they absolutely will if given the chance.

Once they have made it through your guided tour, you can linger with a smaller group of friendlies.

“But I have to go to a Planning Commission Meeting and can’t control the venue!”

Yes, this can be tough.

And often you don’t know what the temperament of the crowd will be until they start ripping into you and your family. You can calm them down by filling the crowd with your own people. Bring lots and lots of friendlies to support you and sign them up to speak about how important your project is to the community. If you don’t have time to organize a group of friendlies – delay the meeting until you can bring in your supporters.

If you can’t delay the meeting – buckle up and be strong.  

Be kind, understanding, and gracious in the face of whatever mean things may come.  You are not on a whipping post and you should absolutely bring to someone’s attention when they are being nasty. Singling them out for a gentle dressing down will separate them from the crowd and force them to be an individual.  Call out the behavior, not the stupidity of their complaints. They are entitled to a point of view. They are not entitled to be nasty to you and your family.

You are doing important work, and their temporary insanity does not alter that fact. Eventually, the group will dissipate and you will be able to communicate with your neighbors as INDIVIDUALS and things will get on the right track.

If you have the right viewpoint, building a positive group agreement in your community results in a thing of beauty that will support you and the residents of your community.

Contact us if you would like to discuss this further.

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