Professional Advice: Three Ways to Torpedo a Transaction

by Ed Riggins, CCIM, SIOR

Contract signingThose of us who make our living negotiating commercial sale and lease transactions are accustomed to dealing with conflict. We take high financial stakes for granted, and deal daily with people whose decisions have significant consequences for others. Yet despite our training and experience we often let ego and our own laziness get in the way of forward progress. Here are three factors that seem to show up repeatedly, torpedoing otherwise manageable transactions.

Displaying Contempt Instead of Humility

Thee legendary psychologist and marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman defines contempt as “speaking from a position of superiority.” Gottmam warns that contempt is the number one predictor of divorce—nobody likes to be talked down to. Is the same not true in our business dealings? When the facts are on our side it may feel good in the moment to roll our eyes and dismiss the other person’s point of view, but it rarely helps our cause to have other people feel disrespected. Understanding the other person is not the same as agreeing with them. Be humble. Show some class. Rise above, but don’t talk down.

Looking for Blame Instead of Solutions

The environmental report on an industrial property comes back and remediation will be needed in a section of the property where the prior owner once used pipe cutting equipment. The purchaser’s broker, whose client is on a tight deadline, angrily calls the listing broker and shouts “you should have told me about this earlier!” The bids from the tenant’s finish contractors reveal that another $20,000 (in excess of the tenant allowance) needs to be spent to relocate some HVAC ducts. The tenant’s broker calls the landlord’s broker and says “your space planner should have known about this!” Do these scenarios sound familiar? When bad news comes our way strong negative emotions are almost inevitable, but hostile reactions are not. Instead of lashing out we are usually well-served by taking a few deep breaths. I have also found it useful before making that phone call to calmly ask myself this question: “Is this my problem, their problem, or our problem?”

Falling Prey to Fundamental Attribution Error

This term from social psychology refers to our tendency to attribute the behavior of other people to personality instead of circumstance. I once became very angry with a client who, in the middle of an important project, didn’t return my calls for several days. My attitude toward him shifted dramatically when his colleague called on his behalf to let me know that he had suffered a life-altering aneurysm. It is a natural tendency when we are cut off in traffic to mutter to ourselves “what a jerk!” Is it possible that the driver has just gotten news that his wife is in the hospital delivering their new baby? Supposedly it was Plato who said that we should “be kind, for everyone we meet is fighting a great battle.” When others exhibit behavior that we find upsetting we should at least be open to the possibility that there is a benign explanation.

Ed Riggins, CCIM, SIOR, teaches real estate classes nationally and speaks on relationship building and conflict. Please join him for his session “Seven Negotiating Tips from a Grizzled Veteran” at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando this November.


This article appears in the Commercial Connections issue Summer 2016: Building Opportunities, Community & Our Future.

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