I am half-Greek and half-German, and when I communicate about something I’m passionate about there are probably two things you can expect from me: I will believe I’m right, and I will probably be loud. Just ask my wife Tracy, a gentle, strong soul who believes we’re all entitled to our own opinion, and yet whose opinion I haven’t always gracefully embraced.
She, as well as many people both personal and professional, have been on the receiving end of what some call my pit bull passion. And though I prefer to call it my “point of passion,” it’s where I state my opinion (which I believe to be fact), and if the person on the receiving end doesn’t meet my wisdom with alliance, I become the pit bull of repetition, restating my position over and over, elevating my volume with each reiteration to make my point more “right.”
Though my ego would like to think my amplified demeanor is commanding the conversation, what has really happened at that moment is that I have lost the art of communication, or the ability to effectively communicate a message, have it received from the opposite party, have it responded to with proper facts and then have it returned for a win-win resolve.
Unfortunately, the art of communication is something I’ve not seen often in our industry. Recently, as karma would have it, I was on the receiving end of a pit bull when a new agent busted into my office and proceeded to “passionately” lecture me on the value of one of my oceanfront listings.
He wanted me to accept a less-than-appealing offer, which my clients and I found no interested in. Keep in mind that I am very supportive of agents who offer valuable opinions — opinions that I can use to make adjustments or help educate sellers on the market. But like my wife, I’ve discovered that I am not a fan of “pit bull passion,” especially when it’s unsolicited, uneducated and not fact-driven.
Reality check: communication is only effective if the receiving party can hear it; and hearing has nothing to do with volume.
The incident reminded me of something my college professor always impressed on us, which was the importance of “owning” a position in a debate. His rule of thumb was to “make sure our position was rooted in facts and always articulated in a polite and civil manner.”
So in the realm of the art of communication, what does “owning” our position look like in the throes of negotiation? Here are three steps to successful communication in real estate (and in life).
1. Listen, listen and listen
Most people in negotiations make the mistake of formulating their comeback before their client has even finished their sentence. The art of communication remembers that “a closed mouth means open ears.” If you can learn to hear the need of the person in front of you, and address that need, you are already one thousand steps ahead of the game.
2. Know your facts and recognize your opinions
The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” As much as you might not want to admit it, there’s a possibility that you may not be the oracle to all.
In our business it is not enough to think you are right. You must show up with the facts that prove you are right. It’s also okay to have a personal opinion, but it’s your job as the agent to know the difference and properly communicate it.
3. Stay focused on the end goal
The end goal of the art of communication is to have all parties reach a win-win. This is how we close deals, but it can only happen if the wall of miscommunication stays down. As a lead negotiator, your job is to manage your communication style. This means maintaining polite dialogue between the clients and all agents — even those who don’t know what they are doing.
You must actively listen to hear the needs of those with skin in the game, and you must always keep the volume down when things get passionate. (Including refraining from all-caps emails.)
As a real estate broker who is constantly working on raising my personal bar of professionalism, learning to tone down my pit bull passion has been one of the best personal and professional lessons I’ve embraced.
This gem of a lesson has taught me that being louder doesn’t make me right. That my German mother’s rule — “keep politeness at all costs” — is a must. And that negotiating a deal is an emotional game with no room for pit bull passion.
May low volume negotiations be with you.