Truth is Loud, Silence is Deafening

Once, many years ago, a very wise person shared with me a small but very powerful insight that has helped me in practically every aspect of my life – it’s easy to remember, too: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Whenever I rush headlong into any situation with the goal to be understood first, I hit resistance or find my argument to have more holes in it than I had thought possible. Just the opposite: whenever I pause to ask questions and digest the answers, I find it so much easier to reach my goal(s) because I’ve either found a way to build a bridge without the need to take a leap or that my original goal needed to be adjusted because it had holes in it. There’s a great line from the novel (and movie) To Kill a Mockingbird that sums it up: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” (I chose not to open this week’s article with that line for fear you might have thought I was going in a different direction with a different movie about lambs and how quite they can be.)

Recently, I was meeting with two real estate agents who handle a lot of higher-priced properties, and I wanted to steer the conversation to a topic that I thought was perfect for who I thought was their ideal clientele. Just as I was about to launch into my presentation, I stopped myself and asked this question: What’s the makeup, demographically, of most of your cash buyers? Of course, I KNEW the answer to this question – older folks who were close to retirement or who were already retired and wanted to downsize – but I asked the question because I’m big-hearted and noble that way. Their response, though, absolutely shocked me: Millennials. What?!!! They explained that most of their cash buyers were folks in their early 30s who have been saving for quite some time and have amassed enough capital to purchase a small home without a mortgage. This not only pulled the rug out from under me as to what I wanted to discuss, it went against practically everything I had believed and read about Millennials.

The focus of this week’s article isn’t really Millennials and the unexpected saving/spending habits of some of them (because my gut still tells me that Millennials buying houses with cash isn’t THAT big of a group in the grand scheme); it’s about being open to the unexpected and learning from new revelations. Because I asked the question and waited to digest the answer, I was able to make a completely different pitch on the fly that gave these two agents something that they could use to market AND take to their existing cash buyers that they’ll find very attractive (and should increase more selling/buying options for those agents). This exchange was a two-way street: I now possess a piece of information that I can add to my repertoire and trot out with other agents when the moment is right. Not bad for asking just one question, right? When you think you have all the answers, that may be true – because you’ve stopped asking questions. Whether you’re an agent or a buyer/seller of property, not asking questions severely limits your options.

I’ll close with this Chinese proverb: “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” Depending on your personality, five minutes might FEEL like forever, but it beats the alternative, right? So ask the question(s) NOW, and get it over with.

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