In recent conversations with some MCNE grads, they talked to me about the difficulties they are having with agents on the other side of offer negotiations.  They are experiencing everything from ghosting to aggressive combatant behaviour.   Bad behaviour on the part of the other agent is, at best, a block to the sharing of information essential to create win/win transactions and at worst, a deal-breaker.

It feels to me like there is an increase in the frequency of bad behaviour from the agent on the other side of the transaction.  Why is this happening and what can we, as professional negotiators, do to protect our industry and to protect our clients when faced with these difficult agents?

The answer to why is likely tied to poor training, a modern culture of pretention, limited industry compliance on rules and ethics, Reality TV and international trends in culture.   What can we do about it is harder to understand.    As a trainer, it’s frustrating because the agents that need negotiation training the most, often don’t think they do. It’s a classic case of them not knowing what they don’t know.  We have put 5000 REALTORS in Canada through the CNE courses and this is less than 5%.  How do we affect the rest?

I think that modelling good behaviour and promoting professional best practices to your colleagues can help.  Let’s work together to get the word out there that for organized real estate to survive the technology disruption, we need to raise the bar of professionalism.

But in the meantime, how do we deal with this bad behaviour at the moment when it is having a negative effect on our client’s deal?

I think the first step is to understand the other agent.   Why are they ghosting or why are they being combative?  Ask simple questions from a place of curiosity and not from judgement.  If they feel that you are also being combative, the conflict will escalate.   We want them to change their behaviour and we all know how difficult that can be.   Be professional, complimentary, curious and open-minded.  Give them the space to save face.  If they feel that you are being critical of their behaviour, they will defend it with more bad behaviour.

Seek first to understand.  This approach should soften their defensiveness a bit and when you feel that they are a little more open, introduce the idea that while each party has unique objectives, all parties share the main objective of wanting to get the transaction done.  Propose that both agents work together to see if there is a common ground that meets the needs of both parties.   Don’t use too much Negotiation jargon as it may make them feel inferior.  You want to build collaboration and showing respect is important.  Set your emotions aside and be take the high road.

Your client is counting on you to do your very best.