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Deescalate Tense Situations

1:45 Minute Read

Is it me or is everyone facing a barrage of complaints lately? So far, 2018 has been the Year of the Complainer. Last night, I picked up the phone and listened to an agent from another company blow a hurricane of insults at one of our great agents. This morning, same stuff just different agents. The last few weeks, my entire work days have been filled dealing with complaints, answering calls and emails, researching accusations, providing proof, gathering documentation and emailing written responses for those complaints. Not the stuff you dream of when getting your brokers license.


My favorite complaint came recently from a home-seller who was convinced her home was not selling because of the design and size of our yard sign. Her over-priced home with original 1970’s everything had nothing to do with it. Hmmm.

Before I send the wrong signal, not every complaint was without merit. Agents are humans. And humans make mistakes. When agents do the wrong thing, it’s my job as broker to step in and help. We’re a team and I always have our agents' backs. We deal with it together. In those situations, we own the appropriate responsibility, deal with the issue quickly and completely, and make it right when possible.

But some people are just difficult to deal with. So, let me offer a little advice:

Not all money is good money. In the early stages of dealing with clients, take the time to determine if you’re a good match for them. Chemistry is important. If they are too difficult to deal with, my advice is to keep walking. Stopping a problem before it begins is the easiest path to happiness. If you accept the responsibility of taking a client, just remember you owe them some things.

As I contemplate recent complaints, a few common communication issues keep popping up. So on a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you handle these?

Regular Communication. Many problems can be solved early on with good weekly communication. A major complaint about many agents in general is poor communication. “They listed my home and I never heard from them again.” For any client, buying and selling homes can be nerve-racking. They need an agent who can talk them through the process and occasionally talk them down when they’re stressed out. Some clients may need more, but calling or emailing them at least once each week, and as circumstances change, is reasonable.

Predictive, Honest and Firm Communication. Even if you’re newer to real estate, you probably have more experience than your client. Tell them what to expect. Be honest in every situation. Help them manage reasonable expectations. It’s OK to tell a client NO. Just have a good reason ready for your answer.

Affirming Communication. Never assume it’s OK to dismiss someone’s complaint – even if you think they’re unreasonable. Learn to listen beyond their words. Consider their perspective. Think about their feelings. Sometimes it’s easier to find common ground once you’ve seen the situation through their eyes. You might change your mind and actions. After really listening to someone’s concerns, you may still need to bring someone’s actions into line with your plans. My advice is to use the Feel / Felt / Found method to help someone move through a conversation. It goes like this: “I think I understand how you feel. (And then communicate back to them what they are trying to say.) I have often felt the same way. (Relay a personal example of how you have had been in their shoes.) But, I have found... (Move that person to accept your authority and experience.)”

One more note on the topic of affirming communication: On occasion we run into folks who are truly impaired. They do not possess the ability to see the topic reasonably or rationally. These people deserve our most sensitive and caring approach. Be honest. Be firm. But be caring.

Deescalate Tension. Just because a client or fellow agent starts getting loud and demanding, threatening legal action, it doesn’t mean you must reply in kind. A soft answer turns away anger. Be the calming presence. Or said another way, be the adult in the room. There are plenty of bullies in the world. Don’t be one of them.

Too late? Are you already in the middle of a four-alarm fire?

Call Your Broker. That’s why I’m here. I appreciate agents who work hard to fix their own problems, however from time to time, we all need help. And sometimes having another voice of reason and calmness can set things straight. Like any broker, my goal is keep transactions on track and restore confidence in your agent/client relationship. The earlier you enlist the help of your broker, the more we can help.


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