The role of “Conflict Junkies” in Body Corporate dispute

June 8, 2022

Most disputes within Bodies Corporate stem from ignorance and miscommunication. Sometimes, however, disputes are caused or perpetuated by “conflict junkies”. As the name suggests, conflict junkies are people that are addicted to conflict. They love sending long, threatening emails. They routinely demand total adherence to their views and wishes. They rarely ask questions, preferring instead to make statements. In our experience, conflict junkies are often responsible for the worst, most toxic, Body Corporate disputes.

How do you spot a conflict junkie?

Dealing with conflict junkies is one thing, but identifying them can be just as tricky. In our experience, here are some tell-tale signs you can look for:

  1. people who send long emails that use one or more the following words:
    1. “always”;
    2. “never”;
    3. “unacceptable”;
    4. “vehemently”;
    5. “blatant”; or
    6. “incompetent” (just to name a few);
  2. people who are keen to fix blame for the problem, but not fix the problem itself;
  3. people who reject solutions but don’t explain why or propose alternatives;
  4. people who claim they have “spoken to a lawyer about this who agrees with me” but refuse to name the lawyer;
  5. people who refuse to meet in person or even speak on the phone, but will happily send 1,500 word long emails; and
  6. (the best example of all) people who find new things to complain about just as their old complaints are being resolved.

Naturally, this is not an exhaustive list, but if any of these sound familiar to you, it may be that you are dealing with a conflict junkie.

Be professional and use professionals

It is important to remain objective and professional when dealing with a conflict junkie. That can be very challenging, which is why having a good Body Corporate manager or a good Body Corporate lawyer can be helpful.

Managers and lawyers can often create that much needed “arm’s-length” distance necessary to stop the conflict junkie from getting under the skin of other lot owners or the Committee.

Managers and lawyers are also more used to dealing with conflict junkies, meaning it is much easier for them to remain calm and professional.

Kindness and understanding

Be kind to your conflict junkie. Again, that is often easier said than done.

In our experience, many conflict junkies have lonely, unhappy, or unfulfilled lives, and conflict with people is one of the few forms of human interaction they enjoy. That is why they tend to hold on to disputes, because without the dispute there is often little else in their life to make it interesting.

Also, just because someone exhibits the traits of a conflict junkie does not mean that their complaints are without merit. Showing kindness and understanding may help you filter the legitimate complaints from the illegitimate ones. Legitimate complaints should be dealt with properly, even if the person making the complaint is a conflict junkie.

Resolution through education

Educate your conflict junkie.

Many conflict junkies assume (often incorrectly) that their understanding of Body Corporate law is superior to their Committee, their Body Corporate Manager, and the lawyers that have been engaged to assist the Body Corporate.

An excellent source of impartial and reliable information is the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management, including their website. Incredibly (but not unsurprisingly) many conflict junkies are unaware of the Commissioner’s Office. Therefore, directing them to the Commissioner’s Office’s website is often a good first step in educating them.

Less typing, more talking

Emails are perhaps the worst form of communication because they routinely lead to miscommunication. Conflict junkies love emails for this very reason. They also love emails because there are things that they will “say” in an email that they would never actually say in person.

Therefore, when dealing with a conflict junkie, a great thing to do is to simply speak to them, preferably in person. Some conflict junkies are so terrified of face-to-face discussions they will simply scurry away and take their complaints with them. Those conflict junkies that are prepared to sit down, will often be far more moderate and rational in person, which means that you are more likely to resolve the dispute or at least better understand what their legitimate complaints actually are.

If your Body Corporate is experiencing issues with conflict junkies or disputes within your scheme, please contact Mario Esera.

This article has been contributed by Mario Esera Partner, HWL Ebsworth.

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