By Jeff Stern
They say there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
Most of the time, I agree. Except, perhaps, when one is in a moving vehicle and asks the driver, “Are we there yet?”
As real estate agents, we get a lot of questions about things. Some of them can seem strange. Outlandish, even. Like these ones:
- “Do we have to use the septic tank on-site?”
- “Can we move in before the property closes?”
- “Do we need a chimney for the fireplace?”
- “It says Cary Grant once lived here. Who was he?”
- “Is the furniture for sale?”
To a first-time home buyer (or someone not old enough to know who Cary Grant is), these questions are perfectly legitimate. To a real estate agent however, who lives and breathes all things real estate, it can feel a bit like a fellow human asking how to breathe air or walk on grass.
The above questions are just a few of some posted online. In the answers posted, the askers were publicly mocked for their inquiries – in some cases, even by real estate agents.
But here’s the thing. As professionals, we must remember that most people don’t actually know what we know. It’s why we have a career.
As real estate professionals (or professionals in any industry, for that matter), when someone asks a question about our area of expertise, we need to be humble. Helpful. And remember that it is to help others that we got into real estate in the first place.
Professionals don’t mock clients. They just don’t. Not even behind their backs, over coffee with colleagues or in blog posts long after the fact.
Rather, professionals understand that they are in the service business, delving into further education and investing in professional upgrades in order to serve others. Our acquisition of knowledge is not to feel superior or simply “know more”.
No, no, no. Our acquisition of knowledge is for the sake of giving our clients the best advantage and experience possible.
As a professional, no matter what questions we’re asked, no matter how obvious, we need to treat the asker as one who sincerely wants to know. They want to learn and are asking us to teach them. We should be thankful.
First, that should make us feel honoured, not annoyed.
Of course they would ask questions of us. We are knowledgeable professionals. Who else can they ask? Uncle Bob? Google? It’s actually a mark of wisdom (and humility!) that they would ask us their questions. As Maya Angelou puts it, “what you learn, teach.” We are teachers. Let’s not punish our students for asking questions.
Secondly, the way we respond reveals our character. If our gut reaction to questions is sarcasm, mockery or condescension, it says more about our character than it does about the people who ask questions.
A person who needs to tear down other people, making them appear foolish in front of others, is a person who is insecure. They tend to want to feel better about themselves and enjoy stepping on other people to do it.
This is hardly the mark of a professional.
Bruce Lee sums it up like this, “Knowledge will give you power, but character will give you respect.”