I started my real estate career pretty smug. Seriously, how hard can it be?

Pretty hard, it turns out. In my hubris, just months after getting licensed, my husband and I decided to have a fourth baby, banking on the unfounded idea that things would ‘just work out’ by the time she was born. 

Things did not, in fact, work out—the reality of building a sales business set in. Cold calling my friends and family felt awkward and insincere. I spent money I didn’t have on cheesy postcards that got tossed in the trash and gave up precious family time to hold open houses at other agents’ listings. After a year, I had done one deal, spent more money than I had made, and hated every minute. And before you could say ‘Great Recession,’ it was 2008, and I was pregnant again.

The housing industry and our finances were collapsing around us. And there I was, a mother of four kids aged infant to 14 with a fifth child on the way, still trying to get this horrid real estate business off the ground. I was so exhausted that I had to fight to stay awake (even during carpool). 

The few clients I had were incredibly high maintenance and tested me daily. I was out of money, out of patience, and running out of time. Then, just when I thought I could not take one more blow, we got the devastating news that the baby due in just a few months was very sick and would not likely survive after birth. Because this is not a story about pregnancy loss, I will spare you the agonizing details of the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that when I lost her, that was a tipping point for me. 

For the next few months, I went to a very dark place.

I don’t know where the thought came from, but in one of my moments of despair, I had an epiphany: I’m nobody’s bitch, but there I was, letting life kick my ass. I declared at that moment that I would not be defined by all the shitty things the world did to me. I would be defined by what I did in the world. 

So I set out to be a blessing to everyone I met. I found purpose, and that changed everything. 

There are a few basic principles I followed to go from a struggling agent to finding passion (and success) in my real estate career. You can use them too:

The Humanizer Hack

When you let someone intimidate, annoy, or bore you, you instinctively disassociate from them in order to protect yourself. But disconnection is not good for business. You have to genuinely engage. 

Try gathering these basic bits of information about them and watch how the dynamic shifts:

  • When is their birthday? (Oh hey, they were a teeny tiny cute baby once)
  • Where did they go to high school or college? (You did these things too)
  • Do they have a partner? (OMG, someone picked him)
  • Do they have kids? (He is someone’s world)
  • Do they have a dog? (How can you hate a dog person?)

Find A Reason To Give A Compliment Or Thank Someone

Even if it’s hard to come up with something genuinely nice to say to someone, the act of trying to see them in a favorable light will change the way you look at them. If you can utter a kind word to them, you’re likely to catch them off guard in the best way and preempt future conflict.

Strategic Conversation

Three rules for conversation:

  1. She who talks the most comes away with the higher opinion of the conversation.
  2. She who talks the least learns the most.
  3. She who asks the questions is in charge.

During every conversation you have, determine what rule you need to follow to make the most of the interaction.

Assume The Best Intentions

It is really easy for a text or email conversation to accidentally go sideways, but it can be prevented. For example, when you get a ‘snippy’ text from someone, instead of assuming she’s a giant bitch, imagine another scenario: She’s got two text conversations going at once, and the other is with her kid, who she forgot to pick up at school, and she needs to put the phone down and go get him. And then make your response cheerful or, at worst, neutral.

How These Principles Changed My Career

I started using these principles on EVERYONE: the weird people, the boring ones, people who intimidated me–everyone. 

When a self-absorbed agent walked into a showing, rather than being annoyed by their flexing and name-dropping, I would exclaim, ‘Wow, no way–you were at [insert fancy venue] for [insert exclusive event]? That is so cool! How was the view?’ 

Their demeanor would immediately change. Now they were animated and engaged in telling the story of their fabulous night, delighted that someone would listen. That felt pretty good.

As I started giving this grace to people, I learned a lot about them and what makes them tick, and darn it if they didn’t become so much more interesting to me than before. As I continued on this way with agents and clients, it didn’t take long before my business showed surprising improvement. 

And it just keeps getting better! I’m crushing my business by every dollar metric (volume, market share, growth). I was even voted REALTOR® of the Year. 

But most importantly, I am the Happiest Person in Real Estate.