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Question: I live in a condo complex and the strata president is a bully who manipulates and intimidates residents so that she gets her way on all decisions. She favors some residents and their requests are met quickly while the rest of us have to grovel and plead to have repairs to our suites addressed. I feel angry and distressed and find myself avoiding her whenever possible. If I had the money I would move. Any tips on how to handle myself in this situation?


Answer: Since moving is not an option, you may have to face the bully. This takes courage, energy and planning. The first thing to do is to try to think clearly about the psyches involved: yours and hers. What does it take to make a bully and what does it take to be intimidated by one? It may be useful to know more about your strata president and what makes her tick. Bullies, even the adult versions, are individuals who act out some of their insecurity by puffing themselves up and pushing past the rights of others. If you could shift your thinking and see your strata president as insecure rather than malevolent, you may be able to lower your reactivity.


Equally important is the need to address your own trepidation around people who ignore the rights of others. Ask yourself some questions. What is your history with intimidation? Does the strata president remind you of anyone from your past? If the president were a man rather than a woman, would you feel differently? Have you or others close to you felt controlled or pushed about by others? Our feelings in the moment do not exist in isolation of past experience. Rather, they are fueled by our own life story and the stories of others. Thinking through some of the above may help loosen your strata president’s grip on you.


Now for a few practical tips: As I mentioned above, a bully often puffs her/himself up to look powerful. Think of other species and the use of puff to intimidate aggressors. The effort is to look menacing enough that others will keep their distance. What you want to do is match the president’s puff. Instead of avoiding her, think of simple ways to engage her. Address her with a greeting at every opportunity. Use her name when saying hello and always make eye contact. Take up as much space as possible by standing up straight and tall. Show up for meetings in a cheerful and curious manner and refuse to have your poise altered by her impatience or irritation. Ask for an agenda for upcoming meetings and prepare well for them so that you are not caught off guard. Get to know as many of your strata owners as possible. Be friendly and respectful and address them by name. You may need their support. Do not triangle or gossip about either the president or other members. Rather, speak directly, calmly and openly at meetings about issues that concern you.  


Also: Does your strata employ a property management company? If so, the company may be helpful with your concerns about repairs. Also, there is a non-profit association that serves strata owners (CHOA) that you may want to join. They have been around since 1976 and provide education, advocacy and support for strata corporations or for individual strata members. You may take some small comfort in knowing that you are not alone. I have heard many similar stories of frustration from strata owners. Good luck with what lies ahead. I hope you can find the courage and the energy required.   


Margaret Anne Speak, M.A., C.C.P.A, works with couples, individuals and families from a Bowen Family Systems perspective at Family Services of the North Shore. Questions? Write This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 604-988-5281.