When Conflict Arises

Have you ever seen the TV show Bridezillas? It starts with an introduction to a beautiful, blissful bride and her loving, supportive family. But then, somewhere along the way, a switch goes off and the pleasant bride-to-be turns into Bridezilla- mean spirited, demanding, lashing out at everyone around her.  Usually, the people who get the worst of her abuses are the ones who are closest to her, helping to make her dream wedding come true.

I’ve also seen this same phenomenon in real estate. The buying and selling process can be very stressful. Especially, when things don’t go just right. Or, worse, when things go absolutely wrong.  The stress can cause your most pleasant, friendly client to turn into a Sellerzilla or Buyerzilla in the blink of an eye.  And much like the show, the folks who get the worst of the behavior are often the sales agents who have been working so hard to make the transaction work.

As a Realtor, even if you are the most diligent, thoughtful, and careful agent, if you practice long enough you will unfortunately find yourself dealing with this kind of client. It can be unsettling when that switch goes off and suddenly you are at odds with the person you are supposed to be working for and being blamed for circumstances outside of your control.

This can be an untenable position but there are some strategies for you to use to get through to the other side fairly unscathed.

First, stay calm. This is a good rule to employ all the time but especially in difficult circumstances. If you allow yourself to get worked up you will only inflame the situation. Even if you have to delay dealing with something for a few minutes or an hour to ensure you have control of your emotions you should do that. Take a walk, take a deep breath, vent to your broker, drink a glass of wine. Do what you need to do to stay in control of yourself and your emotions.

Second, stay professional. Do not say, text or email anything that you might regret later.  And not just to your client but everyone in the transaction. You may be getting the brunt of a situation that was someone else’s fault. Suck it up and keep it professional. I’ve seen some of the most shocking emails/texts from other professionals. Don’t make a bad situation worse by saying something you will regret and could potentially cost you business or referrals down the road.

Finally, put it all in writing. This is also important to do all the time but especially in situations of conflict. If things go south and you find yourself in a lawsuit you will want the written record of everything that transpired. If you have a phone conversation, follow up with an email to recap. As one of my favorite attorney friends says, in true lawyerly form, “Everyone is a liar.” It sounds harsh and I’m not saying it’s true but you need to prepare yourself as if it is.

When a transaction becomes difficult it can feel like you are stuck in a vice with no clear end in sight. Time slows down and gets sucked into conflict. In my years as a Realtor I’ve experienced several of these nightmare transactions. It’s hard. It’s disheartening. It’s frustrating. But, now that I reflect back, I have a hard time remembering the specific names or properties which at the time strained all my patience, my feelings and my confidence. The ones that stick in my memory are the good ones, the families I helped out of foreclosure, the first homes I helped couples find, the ones that made me love my job.

So, if you find yourself in this situation remember that I have your back. We’ll weather this storm together. Use these strategies, learn from the experience and know that sunnier days are on the horizon.