Way back in 1986 when I enrolled in the Ontario Real Estate Association Phase 1, 2 and 3 Real Estate Licensing Program, it took all of three weeks to be provided with a certificate and a license to enter the free market and begin dealing with, in most cases, an individual’s largest asset – their home.
Unbeknownst to me at that time, that little piece of paper also provided me the statutory right to deal with three of the leading causes of stress and anxiety in people’s lives – relationships, money and emotions.
I was never told what many of us will be forced to deal with at some point in our career – a violent interaction.
I was never provided information from my instructor that would prepare me to be sitting across the table from a couple in the midst of a divorce, when the male decides to take his anger out on me because his soon-to-be ex-wife told him that if he didn’t accept the offer, she was going to force his acceptance through a court order. Yet there I was, exposed to an interaction that would have become physical had I not been faster at standing up from the table than he was at reaching across it.
I was never told that one of my own peers, other “professionals” within my chosen industry, and the same people I have worked with, would go out of their way to provide slanted opinions and fact-less statements in order to cause me difficulty with a client. This “real estate professional” created a social violent interaction between myself and a home seller I was representing. He did this because I was chosen over him to list their property for sale. Since he was their close friend, he felt he had to earn their loyalty again by degrading me – to the point of causing a violent interaction between myself and the couple whose home I was hired to sell.
That same licensing course never taught me that a distraught man who lost his investment property to a Power of Sale would turn violent towards me. A man I didn’t know and had no relationship with saw my face on the lawn of the home he once owned, and I then became the catalyst, the issue, the reason his entire life had fallen apart. He became so angry that he contacted me and threatened to kill me, and then proceeded to come looking for me. It took three days for him to be arrested. After his arrest, I found out this man had attacked another real estate professional in our own board only a few years before.
Unfortunately, we have met many other professionals, from small-town offices to large brokerages with hundreds of salespeople across Canada, who have been caught in a social violence interaction with clients or other sales reps they work with.
Educating and training real estate professionals across Canada in violence prevention has unfortunately made me aware of just how fast a good client or that person who you have worked so hard to build a relationship with, can and will turn on us. Their money is on the line, their emotions rage, their relationships dissolve – and we are brought in to liquidate the asset. Or you suffer a physical sexual attack by a newly separated client who is struggling to understand why his wife left him, all because no one told us what warning signs or dangerous behaviour to be mindful of.
We enter people’s lives, we deal with their emotions, we deal with their money and we often find ourselves part of their relationships, even if it’s only for a short while. Yet we don’t understand how to de-escalate a social violent encounter. We don’t know how to let angry people get off their chest what’s bothering them at that very moment. No one ever explained to us how important empathy would be in dealing with that 1 in 200 person who could turn violent, nor did they ever tell us that defending our ego when a client is angry could result in us being attacked when all we are doing is “setting them straight”.
When you find yourself in that disagreement, when voices start to elevate and jaws lines start to tighten, remember to put your ego away. What is being said to you at that very moment is only a thought. A thought is nothing unless you let it become something!
We only need to add one ingredient to destroy any relationship we have, or any relationship we ever will have, and that ingredient is our ego.
The next time you enter the argument, or you are standing in front of someone who is calling you down, be the bigger person, take the E out and let it GO.
Social violence is all about ego. If you challenge someone who is angry and you trump their ego, if that individual has an aggressive nature, a strong A-type personality, or has inherited the warrior gene, well, there’s an old saying I’ve been guilty of using once or twice…. “You got that black eye because you were talkin’, when you shoulda been listenin.’”
Take the E out, and let it GO.