Monday, May 14, 2007

Maturity and Respect Amongst Adults

I live in a condo. As part of living in this condo, I have to deal with and react to the Home Owner's Association (HOA), which is the organization that insures that people follow agreed rules and get along. This is important because condominiums usually share "public" spaces with other people, in addition to "private" spaces. By "private" space, I mean that my unit shares walls (or floor/ceiling) with three other units. My bedroom shares walls with someone else's bedroom and a third person's kitchen. I can't practice in there at 3 AM because it may interfere with neighbor A's sleep and neighbor B's ... late night snack preparation.

While it works well most of the time, I've seen several spectacular incidents float to the top over the last three years. These are most often conflicts between a small group of condo-owners and the HOA. It's been discouraging to me to see people behave so childishly and transparently in meetings and correspondence. It's one thing to be upset about the switch from free-for-all parking to assigned slots. It's a completely different level to circulate nasty letters slid under people's front doors, attacking the HOA board personally.

After seeing this nasty behavior small scale in this community, I guess it must be large scale as well. Perhaps it helps me to associate some other (believed unconnected) behaviors I've noticed along the way.

The first is that there are a certain number of people who always believe "The Man" is out to get them. Even if The Man is not a corporate entity (like the HOA), but is comprised of other owners. In the latest bru-ha-ha (emerging in the last week or so), accusations have even been thrown around of fellow residents having *connections* (cue ominious music) to other corporate entitites, and thus being evil.

The second thing I've noticed is that there are some people who are ready to claim they're not receiving enough respect at the drop of a hat. It's a response that flies out of their mouths so quickly after slight adversity that I start to wonder if it's not just as much a problem. The latest scandal involves the board fighting against one of their own members. The "marked" board member is accused of visiting the other board members' places of employment to discredit them, sending accusing and nasty emails on public record, and crying wolf because they feel they are being mistreated because they are military veterans.

It's tough for me to take seriously. The disgraced member's emails attacking the board were disclosed as evidence, and they're pretty wacky. The disgraced person was caterwauling about not receiving due respect, possibly because of the comparatively young age of the person. On a separate argument, the person felt that because they had lead Green Beret and Delta Force soldiers on operations in and around Iraq (including an order from the President to move Saddam to a different facility), they deserved and commanded a great deal more respect than the rest of the board was exhibiting. In almost the same breath, the person calls the office workers "bitches" and liars, and accuses them of conspiring to oust the person because "of the TRUTH I tell." And despite the presence of another military veteran on the board, the person seems unshakable from the notion that the board is biased against this person's military status.

It seems to me that someone who led soldiers into combat has a great deal of leadership experience, but I'm not necessarily going to value their input on the cost of repainting units, at least not to the exclusion of the board member who did paint contracting for 30 years. Now, that's just my opinion, and you can judge for yourselves whether or not I'm suffering from a "military bias".

I have this weird theory about respect: we have to earn it. In my way of thinking, no one is going to respect anyone who keeps talking about how everyone needs to respect them. Rules and societal pressures that demand respect be given are not workable. I respect most police officers. This is because I've known many over the years, and they are usually good people trying hard to do good things. I do not necessarily respect the friends of my parents, just because they're older than I am. If they do deplorable and petty things, I'm just not going to be able to respect them.

One of the things that builds respect is maturity. Being able to handle adversity in a mature and adult fashion is a hallmark of a person worthy of respect.

And if you can't act with integrity when confronted by the fact that some people may not like all of your ideas, you probably aren't going to gain any ground concerning respect.

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