Old School Etiquette for a New World: Conducting Yourself In-Person

The rules for in-person etiquette have changed, and it’s important to observe those changes to position yourself as a professional who cares.
Black woman shoes a couple a home

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A series on etiquette isn’t complete without addressing how one should conduct themselves in person. In real estate, in-person interaction is not only unavoidable but also so very important to one’s reputation in the business.

It’s true that the new hybrid workplace has influenced how we conduct ourselves when in the presence of clients and colleagues, but we must remember that in real estate, we represent our business and our brand in every interaction. Here are some tips to make sure you represent yourself in the best light.

The Handshake

A widely held belief is that historically, the handshake originated to prove to someone that you were offering peace and not actually hiding a weapon in your hand. Now that weapon could be hidden germs. Even if you’re not worried about COVID-19 anymore, many other people still are, and rightfully so. We don’t know our clients’ and colleagues’ personal situations, and it’s important to respect the fact that for many, the pandemic is not over. CDC data shows that indeed, the pandemic is still a major concern for many.

That said, respecting the personal space and boundaries of others in in-person settings is vitally important.

Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, advises us all to take it slow and respect the decisions of others.

She recommends: “Don’t be the first to extend your hand, even if you’re comfortable. Watch the other person and allow them to extend their greeting of choice.”

When in doubt, use the fist bump. It’s half handshake but not a hug. You can always ask the other person what they’re comfortable with. That’s better etiquette than just assuming you know.

Show Up On Time

On time is late, early is on time and when you’re late, you lose. We once went to a listing appointment where the seller had been taking notes on a legal pad. He had the agent’s name and what time they showed up. Then he had crossed out the names of those who had been late. Being late is considered disrespectful. This includes online appointments as well.

Plan to show up early and put appointments in your calendar with a 10-to-15-minute buffer time to ensure you’re not late.

Take Off Your Shoes in a No-Shoe House

This includes listing appointments and showing appointments. The fastest way to lose a listing is to track up the floors they just cleaned before you arrived. Just look at their feet to see if they wear shoes inside. Watch for clues like shoes all lined up outside the door or right inside in the foyer.

Be Cognizant of Body Language

Smile with your eyes if you’re wearing a mask and smile with your face when you’re not. In a relationship-driven business, approachability is important. You’ll be approachable when you look approachable.

Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to so that they know you’re listening and interested in the interaction.

There are certain nonverbal cues that might come off as uninviting. Crossing your arms in front of you and standing with a slouch is one example. You also want to take care not to stand directly in front of people if it blocks them in some way, and make sure you’re not posted up in the middle of a doorway, either.

Put Your Phone on Do Not Disturb

When you’re on appointments, make sure the person in front of you has all your attention. This shows them that they matter and that you’re able to focus your energy where it matters in the moment. The messages and pings from your phone can usually wait, so there’s no harm in putting your phone on Do Not Disturb for the duration of the appointment or engagement.

If you’re dealing with a personal situation or professional situation that might require an immediate response, let the client in front of you know that ahead of time. Otherwise, silence those notifications, secure your phone in a pocket, purse or case and pay attention to your client.

Observe New Personal Space and Hygiene Norms

The pandemic has changed the way we share space and practice hygiene in public. In general, if hand sanitizer is offered, you’ll want to take it unless there’s a particularly good reason not to. Make sure you cough or sneeze as far away from the people around you as possible, and never into your hand. Do so in your elbow instead. If you’re able to wash your hands, excuse yourself and do so.

Another thing that’s out is asking someone else to hold a drink or your phone or keys. Make sure you take care of the items you bring with you.

When it comes to personal space, the six-feet rule taught us a lot. Most people don’t like to have others crowded in closely around them. So, if you’re trying to get on an elevator or a train or are standing in a group, do your part to ensure that others can maintain their personal space. This is also true in a one-on-one interaction. You don’t need to stand super close to someone in conversation.

These little gestures go a long way. It makes all the difference in a world that’s been profoundly changed by a global event. You’re telling whomever you’re with that you are cognizant of their health and are working hard not to spread germs. You’re also telling them that as a real estate professional, you truly care about more than the transaction.

Looking for more etiquette tips?

Make sure to check out the rest of the Old School Etiquette for a New World Series: