A little while ago, my wife recommended a book to me. It is called “I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better,” by Gary and Joy Lundberg. It’s pretty famous and I’m sure a few of you have already heard of it. As I started to read, it quickly turned out that this was not a random suggestion by my wife! You see, the main topic of the book is validation. That is, being able to listen to somebody when they’re feeling down and when they’ve chosen to talk to you about it. Not debating their problem, or trying to find a solution to it: just listening.
Now, I’m going to stereotype a little here, so bear with me! In my experience, we men have a tough time with validating other people (particularly our spouses… hence my wife’s book recommendation). We appear to be listening on the outside, but really our minds are whirring and we’re trying to find solutions to whatever issue this person has brought us. We’re really just waiting for the other person to finish talking, so we can fix the problem for them.
Nine times out of ten, this is not what that person actually wants us to do. What they want is for us to listen, to be sympathetic and to simply show and say that we understand them. They want us to empathize, as we should. They want to feel validated for choosing to open up to us. The chances are this is something you knew already… but often forget to put into practice. I know that was certainly how I felt as I read the book.
What’s this got to do with real estate appraisal? Well, I believe this valuable lesson can help us to better interact with both our clients (or at least, people we deal with professionally on a regular basis) and our employees.
How many times, in your real estate appraisal career, have you gotten a call from a homeowner saying they don’t agree with your valuation? I’m guessing it’s happened a fair few times. And what has your default response to this call been? I’m guessing it’s either, “Well, I’ve been a real estate appraiser in this area for twenty years, so I know what I’m doing,” or, “Oh, I’m sorry but I’m not actually allowed to talk to you. Frank Dodd, you know.” We either go on the defensive right away, or we just shut the homeowner down completely. I understand these approaches completely – heck, I’ve done them myself countless times – but whichever way you look at it this is not good customer service.
A much better way to deal with the homeowner is to listen to them and validate them. You can obviously understand why they feel upset or angry, even if there’s nothing you can do about it; so show them that you understand. Be sympathetic, tell them you completely get where they’re coming from, gently explain that – because of Dodd Frank – you can’t change the evaluation now and recommend that they speak to their lender about their options. The way in which we, the appraisers, deal with these individuals might make all the difference in the long run – we can help them understand what’s going on and make the whole process easier for them.
Perhaps even more importantly, we can also apply this lesson of validation to our employees. Sometimes we can forget that the people who work for us aren’t machines, designed to perfectly carry out one job. They’re human beings. They make mistakes. They get frustrated with each other, with themselves, even with us. When they come forward with a problem, they’re taking a big step in opening up to us, their boss. We need to understand that and instead of immediately looking for a solution and trying to “fix” things, to just listen, nod and show them that we understand.
Whether it’s in your private life, or in your work as a real estate appraiser, remember that you don’t have to fix everything. Sometimes you just have to listen and validate. I promise that if you do, you’ll soon find a big difference in many of your relationships and your life will be a whole lot easier in the end.
For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 062 – You Do Not Have to Make Everything All Better as an Appraiser
Great advice Dustin.
I have found one listens to them with compassion. Then, it works well to explain the confidentiality agreement. Let them know you would be happy to talk to them if the lender contacts you and provides written permission to discuss the assignment. After using this technique for many years, I have not had a lender contact the me yet and approve this discussion with the home owner. This action displays to the homeowner the appraiser is trying to help, but it’s the lender whom won’t allow it. It shifts the homeowners perception of whom won’t assist.
Dustin, you have made a great point. One that my wife has pointed out to me too. As for dealing with home owners, borrowers, sellers, brokers, property managers, and all the folks in the public that we as appraisers deal with daily, I head the issue off earlier. When I set an inspection appointment it is a chance to interview one of the people involved with the property and discover information. I start off telling them I cannot discuss value or prices of the property. I have a double handful of standard questions that I ask all the time and end the conversation with “is there anything else that is important, that you want me to know about the property?”
Yes, it takes +/-15 minutes to set appointments and ask my questions. However, I am much better informed about the property. I know it has a sprinkler system which you may not view at insp’n time or that the roof was new last year it I go out in the rain and have trouble seeing its condition through the umbrella. Also, like Steve M. I don’t get calls back for missing or not considering something, because it gives the other party an opportunity for input…. a chance to be listened to and validated that they are important. Good Appraising – to one and all.
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Thanks for your comments, Jeff.