By Jeff Stern

Sometimes I wonder if I’m turning into my grandparents. Maybe even my great-grandparents.

I become more certain of it every time a client calls, leaving me a message to text them. I’m not supposed to call back, I’m supposed to text them. It’s as though people go out of their way to avoid talking on the phone.

Even in a restaurant, I’ll be meeting with someone and notice that all around us, people are not talking to each other, but are hunched over their phones. This is social interaction in our age.

Social media has made us antisocial, and we’ve lost a lot of our ability for human contact.

Maybe that’s how my grandparents felt when society made the transition from horse and buggy to motorized vehicles. Sure, it was progress, but everyone was suddenly moving so damn fast we lost the ability to stop and look around at the world we were breezing by. We forgot how to sit still and wait.

Now I’m the old-fashioned guy looking around at society, noticing how we’ve lost the ability to interact like humans. I’m totally serious.

Have you ever walked into the middle of a crowded mall and shouted at the top of your lungs, “Quit your bitching!” or “You’re an idiot!”?  It sounds insane, but it happens more than you think.

Before you let yourself off the hook with a “no, I’d NEVER do that!”, ask yourself if you’ve ever said such things publicly online, maybe on a Facebook status or as a comment in a discussion forum. You’ve seen comment sections – they’re full of comments like this. And that, my friend, is exactly what you’re doing when spouting off online – you’re beaking off in a crowded mall to complete strangers.

It’s a bizarre phenomenon of our time. When we’re online, we forget that there are real human people on the other end of the screen. We spurt off things online that we would never do if they were in a crowded place with a megaphone. We’d never say it out in the real world, but we’d say it online. Does this fail to compute for anyone else??

There’s another problem. Our words are only 10 per cent of what we communicate. The other 90 per cent of what we’re saying comes from our tone of voice, facial expression and body language, none of which can be perceived through a text.

Have you ever tried using every tenth word in a conversation? There … … …. … … … …. misunderstanding … … …. …. . … …. … … …. monkeys.

Between our false sense of social connection from behind screens, and our inability to clearly communicate, we’re becoming quite rude, detached and antisocial.

We need to get back to basics, boldly facing faces and braving eye contact. We need to return to using the other 90 per cent of our communication.

What would your comment look like if you only used 10 per cent of the words?

Jeff Stern, a 27-year real estate veteran with Re/Max Performance Realty in Winnipeg, received the 2017 CMHC/MREA Distinguished Realtor Award. He is an instructor for the Provincial Real Estate Licensing program, a member of the Education Committee and sits on the Professional Standards Investigation and Hearing Committee at MREA. He gives back to the community as chair of the MREA Shelter Foundation and writes stimulating and enlightening articles on his blog. The opinions expressed are those of Jeff Stern and not the Manitoba Real Estate Association.


  1. Thanks for this Carolyne. Especially your story of the email situation. That is something I and likely many others can identify with.

    I too find it interesting there are no other comments. I wonder if it hits too close to home but hopefully gets others thinking of the ramifications of the written versus spoken word.

    Your example of the bank is equally a great lesson.

    Thanks again for sharing your comments.


  2. Jeff

    If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny. Notice no replies? Either your topic hit close to home too bluntly, or appropriately.

    Back in the days before FB, as in plus twenty years ago when John Reilly and Saul Klein from San Diego via Hawaii, started their international real estate forum leaning heavily into programs they created for NAR, John told a very important story about a nearly lost business friendship.

    They had been working with a equal, a comrade, preparing some training material. Each having their own opinion of the moment, it sounded like a big undertaking.

    But one day, meaning “whatever suits your fancy, that’s what we’ll use,” John wrote in an email response: “I don’t care.”

    WHOOPS! The new world of email. For years the fellow on the other end refused to talk to John. And John felt so bad. Years later they met at a convention I think, and briefly began to talk, and the subject of the email came up from years before. They reconnected and the topic got addressed and peace made.

    But John used that story to train us to be careful using the then new world of email, because people, of course, cannot hear the tone or see your eyes, or determine your body language.

    Right up there with “how your staff answers the phone,” and you never know who’s on the other end of the line. Could be an important would-be client. Lost.

    Likewise a story my old long gone wonderful personable bank manager loved to tell, as the business world adopted dress-down Fridays where the bank staff was suddenly appearing wearing beach flip flops, etc. the very day that a Japanese dignitary, visiting their Canadian company, decided to pay a visit to the branch and was quite horrified as to how the staff was dressed. The bank lost the corporate account.

    We just never know what makes the other person tick. Or be ticked off. Best always to err on the side of caution?

    Thanks for addressing the topic. There might be a valuable lesson in there for some in our industry.

    Carolyne L 🍁

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