robert frostI was a terrible teacher. I knew it, but I thought if I just kept working at it, I’d get better. Everyone struggles those first few years in every profession, right? I had to keep going, keep plugging away… after all, my parents spent a great deal of money on my college education so I could have a nice career teaching high school English.

But when my principal sat me down at the end of my third year to tell me I still had “a lot of room for improvement”, I was sad and embarrassed. I was a little angry and very frustrated. I wanted to prove him wrong. But within days, I realized he was right.

After lots of reflection, I decided that would be my last year. And when I turned in my resignation, I let him know how much I respected him. I couldn’t imagine how hard it was for him to tell this young 25 year old girl that she didn’t have the skills to do the job. I respected him for having the courage to tell me.

Now that my husband is a principal, I see how those conversations tear him up inside. Just knowing that he needs to have them- and then actually doing it- is courageous, yes. But ultimately, he must do it because it’s his job. He has a duty to his students to have the best staff, the best environment, and the best programs in place for their success. If this means having tough conversations, then that is what he must do.

I find this to be true in our real estate profession as well. Telling a seller that the buyer’s financing fell through at the last minute is a tough conversation. Letting a buyer know that the house of their dreams went to a higher bidder are hard words to say. But in order to do our job well, we must have the courage to have these conversations.

We’ve all dealt with those agents and lenders who “go ghost” when the going gets tough. We’ve had buyers call us in a panic because the lender said there were “some issues” and are never heard from again. We’ve had buyer’s agents “forget” to tell us about a major problem until the sellers are practically packed up and ready to move.

That’s cowardly. It’s selfish. And it’s just flat out incompetent.

One thing I try to do when delivering bad news is to have a plan in place before calling the client. Let’s suppose the pest inspection revealed termites. Before calling the client, contact the company you would normally hire for treatment, get a rough estimate and time frame, and then call your client. This way when you call, you are able to provide a possible solution to the problem.

By having a plan in place when you call, not only do you look like you are on top of things, but it wibe bravell lower your client’s stress level as well. Think about how much easier it is to deal with a problem when, for example, a lender says, “Hey, here’s the problem but I think I have a solution,” as opposed to “So, we have a problem. I’m not sure how to fix it yet. I’ll let you know what I find out.” Which scenario forces your stress level into the freak out zone?

Of course, not every problem has a solution. And that is when it’s really, really hard to have these conversations.  Many times after hanging up the phone I’ve cried, cursed, and felt hurt. Other times my clients have directed those same feelings at me. But never have I avoided these conversations. Did I want to run and hide? Yes. Did I want to disappear and let it sort itself out? Yes. But I can’t. We must be able to have these talks if we want any kind of respect in this profession.

So the next time you have to pick up the phone to deliver bad news, gather up some information, formulate a plan, think about what to say and then, if need be, watch a funny video clip, go for a quick walk, or take a shot of tequila. Do what ever you need to do to say what needs to be said.

Not only is it the courageous thing to do, it’s also the right thing to do. You are the professional. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they hope to hear. It’s your job. Be courageous, and do it.

Amy Gilpin RealtorAmy Gilpin, Realtor, Associate Broker, Manager, ABR.
Fourteen years of helping clients. Six years of helping agents. All for this crazy thing we call real estate.
Production Realty 517-879-4141 Jackson, MI Amy@ProductionRealty.com




additional comments on
"Delivering the Bad News"

  1. Thank you for sharing "Delivering the Bad News". It is good to know I am not alone.

  2. Mark Gelbman says:

    Great advice. Loan officers are masters of avoidence. (I am one). When they finally make the call, it is in the 11th hour. which only incerases stress for everyone in the transaction.

  3. Mark Gelbman says:

    Great advice. Loan officers are masters of avoidence. (I am one). When they finally make the call, it is in the 11th hour. which only incerases stress for everyone in the transaction.

  4. I am no longer in the business but was for 20 years. I always avoided starting a call with the word "problem". That word always means you are about to hear something that could put your transaction in jeopordy. I would cut right to the issuse. I talked to the termite company and they confirmed there are termites so we'll get that taken care of quickly. Boom!! Hope this suggestion helps.

  5. Ben Latocki says:

    Great advice Amy. I've witnessed you make these tough calls, and you never back down.

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