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November 2016
As I was starting the RHA Oregon’s dinner meeting last night, I stood at the front of the room and surveyed the audience. As always, I looked out upon many familiar faces and some new ones. Other members of the board of directors, members, and some new guests that were there to find out what being a property owner is all about. There were some you could guess were there because their property was for their future retirement, some who were already in the midst of their retirement, a few others who were accidental landlords due to circumstances beyond their control, and our valued vendor partners. What I didn’t see was the Snidely Whiplash characters that some would have you believe represent all property owners. For those of you who might not get that reference go to YouTube and watch an episode or 2 from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. I have talked about this many times- the caring people that I have met through my association with RHA Oregon. The times that I have had to counsel members that are concerned about the housing issues and how to help those in need. Yet it seems that our industry, and yes it is an industry, continues to be attacked and vilified. As these thoughts are rolling around in my head and I again survey the audience, I notice that there is an air of excitement and expectancy about the place. It took me a while to identify why at such a time, so close to the election, with so much anxiety in the media, these people were conversing so intently, listening to others talk about their experiences as property owners, how to navigate issues that they may have been dealing with or repairs that they are making to their property, etc. Then it hit me, they are talking with someone else who has some understanding of what they go through every day. Someone who knows the struggles and may have been through the same thing at some point. 
People want only a few things in their life: to be heard and hopefully understood. To feel that their life mattered, that there is value to their having existed. I was reminded of this several days ago. I was talking with a friend and wasn’t really listening as closely as I should have been. Instead of it being a friendly conversation with a little back and forward, it all of a sudden turned into a contest to see who could take control of the conversation. We both tried to talk a little louder. Then a little faster. Then a little more forcefully. Each change just made it worse, and only escalated the problem. Then I remembered to stop and listen. As I took more time to hear what he was saying and how the problem he was having made him feel, the anxiety started to drain from the conversation. We both started to think about what was being said instead of having to control the conversation. Once this happened we were able to quickly move into a discussion of how to solve the issue, a resolution was found, problem solved. After our conversation I remembered an old saying “You have 2 ears and one mouth. Use them proportionally.”
Solutions are not found by shouting into the wind. Only when you take the time to listen and try to understand the position of the other party will you then be able to find a solution. I remember when I was around 5 or 6, my mother and I would sometimes bake together. I was never really a big fan of cherry pie, but I was a fan of the time that I got to spend with my mom one on one. You see I have 4 sisters and we were all born about a year apart. 5 kids in 5 years!! So one on one time with either of my parents was pretty rare. Anyway, mom would have me help her with baking while everyone else watched TV. Then, finally, the pies would go into the oven and then usually it was bedtime. I always made mom promise that once they were done she would come wake me, so that we could share a warm piece of pie together fresh from the oven. While we were eating, we would talk about many different things. She would share her knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes I would understand and other times it would take a while for the meaning to sink in. Mainly, I remember her telling me to see a problem from both sides, to put myself in the shoes of the other person. Try to see things from their standpoint, understand what they are thinking or feeling. Once you can do that, then you may not agree, but you will have done your diligence in trying to find a solution. This is the kind of thing that I see and hear from many of the members of RHA Oregon.  Hopefully, both sides of an argument can and will come together to seek a solution that is long term and reasonable; something that will benefit more than just a select few without long range ill effects. Maybe it’s time that those leading the argument stopped seeing who can talk the loudest, fastest, and most forcefully. Maybe, it’s time that someone started to see who can really listen and put themselves in the others’ situation. Maybe, we all need to sit down in a cozy, warm kitchen with a piece of freshly baked pie and talk about solutions that make sense.
John Sage
President RHA Oregon
Stegmann Insurance Agency Inc.