Communicating During Stressful Times
By Gerald G. Clerx (Success Partner, Engage BRILLIANTLY Training Group)
The current pandemic has created a lot of anxiety within the real estate community - it's a stressful time for everyone. Buyers are uneasy about the future of their investment as well as their ability to qualify and make mortgage payments and sellers are concerned about how the market uncertainty will impact the sale of their property. REALTORS® are justifiably concerned about how this pandemic and associated economic fallout will impact their livelihood.
In times of stress, how we communicate with one another becomes extremely important. Our words and actions will serve to either de-escalate stress by alleviating fears and calming emotions or escalate it, causing irreparable harm to client relationships.
During the next few months, you will engage in difficult conversations with your clients and colleagues. Here are some communication tips to support you in handling these situations with poise and grace.
When addressing a difficult topic
Keep in mind that when you communicate you do so through three channels of expression: verbal, vocal and visual. Each channel will impact how your message is received at a conscious and unconscious level.
Be aware of the words you use when addressing a difficult topic with your colleagues or clients. Eliminate phrases such as 'you always' or 'you should have' or 'if I were you'. The first is blaming, the second is judging and the third is preaching, and none are effective at neutralizing an emotionally charged environment.
Vocal refers to the pace, tone and volume of your voice. You can lower the defensiveness of the person you are engaging with by using a steady pace, a softer tone and a lower volume.
Visual communication includes hand gestures, facial expressions and body posture. Since body language accounts for the majority of how your message is perceived, be particularly aware of what yours is expressing. Open palms, calm facial features and relaxed body posture will help prevent your client from reacting to your message defensively.
When responding to an emotionally charged client
When you are on the receiving end of an emotionally charged client, it's helpful to practice the art of 'non-defensive listening'.
When you find yourself in this situation, your instincts may compel you to defend yourself. A traditional way of handling emotionally charged language is to respond with the JAWS of defense by Justifying, Accusing, Withdrawing or becoming Sarcastic.
Rest assured that while these response options might feel gratifying as they leave your lips, they can cause irreparable harm to your professional relationships. As a wise sage once said, 'A moment of patience in a moment of anger will prevent a thousand moments of regret.'
A far more productive response option, when confronted by a stressed client, is to remain calm and respond with an appropriate alignment phrase. An alignment phrase can be either an agreement, acknowledgment or empathy response:
- Agreement: I agree you should have been told sooner.
- Acknowledge: Clearly, you feel very strongly about this.
- Empathize: I understand how frustrating this must be for you.
An alignment response that's sincere places you next to the emotionally charged individual instead of pitting you against them.
When dealing with situations in a calm manner you are better positioned to ask the clarifying questions necessary to isolate the source of concern or frustration and respond with the appropriate information or steps to resolve it. While we ultimately can't control stressful situations, we can control how we respond to them, and this will be particularly important to remember while you deal with potentially stressful situations over the coming months.
For more information and resources related to real estate practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the BCREA COVID-19 resources page.
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