It may be your client, another agent, an inspector, or a member of your family, but sooner or later you will have to deal with someone who is a royal pain. The best strategy is to get away as soon as possible, but when you can’t, here’s how to cope.
What constitutes a toxic person? In most cases, the person’s toxic behavior results from fear. This includes people who yell and scream, those who put you down, or people who lie about some aspect of the transaction. The list below includes five of the most common types of toxic people who you will encounter in real estate, as well as strategies for coping with them.
1. Blame you
When a seller overprices his property against your advice and then blames you for not doing enough newspaper advertising or holding enough open houses, there are several strategies you can use to turn this situation around.
The best strategy is to track how many people have viewed the seller’s property online. If the listing has had 500 page views and virtually no showings and no offers, it’s pretty hard to argue that your marketing program is not working. Explain to the seller that he has a choice: either wait for the market to improve to get his current price, or lower the price if he wants to sell now.
A different strategy is to ask every open house visitor, agent and potential buyer to give you their best estimate of what price the house will sell at. When the seller continues to receive feedback that his price is too high, he will eventually relent. If not, it’s time to refer him to another agent or to walk away completely.
2. The overt hostile
These people have a chip on their shoulder. A common variety is the parent whose son or daughter is buying his or her first property. The overt hostile will confront you directly. This person has a strong need to be right, as well as a strong need to be in control.
Normally the overt hostile will attempt to exercise that control by putting you in your place. There are two things you can do to handle this situation.
First, explain that your role is merely to provide information that will allow him or her to make the best possible decision. A great way to handle this is to say, "It’s your choice. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. My role is to do everything to support your decision."
Second, whenever the difficult parent is present, mirror and match the child’s body language. Unless there is a strong conflict between the parent and child, the parent will be comfortable with the child’s body language. Mirroring the child’s body language sends a nonverbal message that you are on the same page as the child.
3. The covert hostile
The covert hostile is pleasant to your face and then either gossips about you behind your back or does things to undermine your success. For example, you might ask an agent in your office to cover one of your open houses. The person doesn’t show up, doesn’t call, and your sellers are livid.
When you see the person, his excuse is that he had a flat tire and didn’t have his cell phone with him. The sneakiest covert hostiles are those who embezzle from their employers and have no conscience about doing so. The fact that the covert hostile needed the money more than their employer justifies the behavior.
The best way to avoid covert hostiles is to avoid ignoring seemingly little things that go wrong. Look for the causes. Covert hostiles almost always let someone else do their dirty work. If you believe that you are dealing with a covert hostile, do everything you can to completely divorce yourself from having anything to do with that person.
4. The whiner
These are the people who never have a positive thing to say. Something bad is always happening to them. There are two ways to stop this behavior.
First, ask the whiner to tell you one thing that is going right in his or life. If that doesn’t work, tell him that you are heading out to go door-knocking or to clean your garage, and invite him to go with you. The bottom line is that he needs someone to listen to him, and when you turn the tables, he’ll take his whining elsewhere.
5. Lonely hearts
These people are sad, but they’re also toxic. For example, you might have a widower who calls you several times a day just to check in about how your sale or marketing is going. Another version is the wife who is always out looking at properties, but whose husband is too busy to look at the houses she likes.
In terms of the widower, be proactive and call on your schedule. At the beginning of your call, let him know you have a busy day of prospecting and appointments and that you wanted to make sure you updated him first thing in the morning. Once you finish the update, tell him, "My next appointment just arrived," and that you will update him again tomorrow.
In terms of the wife who is always looking, insist that she and her husband get preapproved with a lender. Until they do, don’t waste your time showing them any more properties.
Each case above is an example of what coaches call "psychic vampires." These individuals can be pleasant and entertaining on the surface. You can tell, however, when you have been in their presence, because you always feel drained or depressed after being with them.
In lieu of the stake in the heart or a garlic necklace, do everything you can to minimize contact with them. If any of these toxic types are your clients, there’s nothing that says you have to continue to work with them. Dump them before they drain life out of you.