Interpersonal communication is the cornerstone of good management

As a property manager, you work as a mediator between property owners and tenants, and need highly developed interpersonal skills to represent each party’s interests as well as your own. The ability to communicate clearly, to assert your needs and desires, and to say “No” with confidence, are hallmarks of a successful business leader. Mastering effective interpersonal communication takes time and mindful effort, but the benefits will carry over into every part of your business and personal relationships. When residents are unhappy, tension develops and even simple problems become hard to solve. The D-E-A-R-M-A-N device is a useful tool to have on hand next time you’re dealing with an upset tenant or property owner.

Use D-E-A-R-M-A-N to get what you want

Developed by a psychology professor as a tool to foster better relationship communication, D-E-A-R-M-A-N is a mnemonic device that outlines the steps for excellent communication and negotiation skills.

"I told her that she couldn't hide from her problems, but she sure showed me."

“I told her that she couldn’t hide from her problems, but she sure showed me.”


Use specific words to describe what you want from the interaction with your resident. Be as clear as possible and use direct language that cannot be misinterpreted. For example, saying “I want your dog to be properly leashed when it goes outside your unit” contains a clear, expected behavioral response. Whereas saying “That mutt of yours is pissing off your neighbors” doesn’t have a specific expectation and will only incite anger and confusion.


Express your own feelings about the situation. We often shy away from involving our emotions in business discussions, thinking that to do so would be unprofessional. But ignoring your personal feelings about a resident’s problem can lead to passive aggressiveness, which is an ineffective form of communication. Expressing your feelings (or those of other residents) about a problem invites the other person to empathize. For example: “When I see that your account is past due every month, I get frustrated and worried.”

While I respect your artistic vision,  we're going to have to repaint.

While I respect your artistic vision, we’re going to have to repaint.


Clearly assert your wishes with direct, no-nonsense language. Don’t expect your residents to read your mind, and don’t use aggressive gestures or a raised voice to drive home your point. If your resident is making a request that you can’t grant, say “No” clearly and stand firm. “Can I please paint my apartment electric orange?” “No. The paint colors are chosen by the property owners and you cannot repaint.”


Make sure the other person knows exactly why it is in their best interest to comply with your request. Using clear language, tell them exactly how doing what you want will pay off in the future. Thank them for listening to your concerns. “By keeping the standard paint colors in your unit, we charge lower cleaning fees at the end of your lease.”

Stay Mindful

Keep your focus on the conversation at hand and be careful not to get distracted by another topic or complaint. Maintain your position, rather than letting your own feelings and desires change in the moment. “I understand you have other problems with your lease, but we’re here to resolve your noise complaint.”

Appear Confident

Use a confident tone of voice and check your body language throughout the discussion. Keep your head up and watch your posture, maintaining periodic eye contact with the other person.

Negotiation is an art, not a tug of war.

Negotiation is an art, not a tug of war.


While your goal during any business conversation will be to get what you want, being willing to give to get is a powerful tool. Be sure to maintain your “No” when you aren’t willing to budge, but try and ask your resident for possible middle of the road solutions. “I’m not going to let you change the unit wall colors. Are there less permanent decorating changes you could make to help you feel more at home?”

Communication Skills Make or Break a Business Leader

Even the best property manager will have to mediate conflict between property owners and residents, or solve problems that arise between residents of the same community. Whether the issue is a financial one like chronically late rent, or a lease violation involving unapproved pets or roommates, knowing how to work through a disagreement effectively is a necessary tool for all property managers. Maintaining open and productive lines of communication can keep small grievances from blowing up into angry fights and potential costly court battles.

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