When starting this story a month ago, my ultimate promise was to share something about myself very few people know. I’m also making good on the other points of my story: A difficult, inappropriate experience with another agent - and the formulas some brands use for training agents to create relationships aka future clients.
Strangely, all three of those things tie together on my journey.
Interrupting their Programs
You can find zillions of videos on YouTube talking about the secret sauces of "relationship building" in real estate. Many methods are very genuine about knowing yourself as a human being and as a professional, and building upon the authentic connections and relationships you already have. Those come from a place of integrity & respect.
Other methods are taught like a kitchen recipe or scientific formula: Funneling - a disturbing commonly used term for procuring people just like you, social systems, personal outreach mechanisms that resemble something noble or grounded in friendship… but are designed purely for the purpose of building clientele.
The whole picture is like an assembly line that starts at “ways to make connections with people,” and ends with “convert them into clients.” The catch is what’s in between: These also teach, in so many words, “convince them you’re friends, that you are the best, most-seen Realtor friend they have.”
Consumers have to be vigilant in not making primarily social or emotional decisions about who they work with. Character is the most important element in choosing a real estate professional. Make sure what you are seeing is 100% authentic.
Real quality in our industry does not come from who's best at being social. "Social" is just what people use to get clients. Quality comes from our service - with traits like intelligence, ethics, advocacy and commitment to your best interests. Caring about people and their homes with the kind of tenacity you have in caring about yourself and your home.
Every real estate friend I have today is GOOD, caring people - but even I’ve been duped. Many of us deal with ugliness from unfriendly peers. As I mentioned in previous posts, we're somewhat conditioned not to talk about the negative in real estate. But simply keeping quiet about the bad can often allow things to get worse.
Without any doubt, that applies to the recent experience I had which made me entirely question my future in this real estate. Here it is.
Another agent and I, and likely others, were being considered by a local resident to list their house. I was recommended by a neighbor, which was very nice to hear - I was grateful and honored to be thought of. The potential client and I had a wonderful meeting. Though they shared that they'd spoken with another agent, I make it a point not to ask about who I’m competing with. It shouldn’t matter.
Many agents don't feel that way. They want to ascertain and assess their perceived competition, and find their vulnerabilities. This situation proved how deep, how low, this can go.
Several weeks later, the homeowner & I reconnected, and they shared with me why they'd chosen the other agent - and how things fell apart. This agent "warned" them with their inflammatory version of personal information about me.The gave it a tone of being compassionate & caring to the client; that they were just looking out for their best interests.
This agent was looking out for their own best interests, and they got the listing. But they also quickly lost it. In short, the client saw the agent's true self show as time passed - and became so uncomfortable that they reconsidered selling altogether.
This isn't about being sour over losing a listing, and I truly don't care about commission - I'm not in this for the money. (*Somewhere, a huge volume seller agent's mind just exploded!) I'm really just upset that the homeowner went through a horrible experience with a dishonest person, and that a distortion of my life was somehow part of it.
I told the homeowner I'm sorry that this happened, and shared my feeling that life gives us challenging experiences to point us in the best directions. Theirs is to stay put for the time being, which I totally support. The direction this gave me, is to own and share my truth.
About that personal information…
Over the years, I’ve told a select few people about a diagnosis, but I’ve never just put it out there. If anything, I’ve kept it more deeply in the closet than I did as a teenager being gay. It’s one of those things that you at first believe shouldn’t matter, until it does - and shouldn’t be anyone else’s business… until it is.
Not surprisingly, such personal informaion can be quietly shared, with good intentions. But we know that such information can generalize, deviate, and someimes even land in the wrong hands.
Before putting my personal story out here, I talked with close friends - including those in real estate. One instinctive reaction I got was to protect me, which really warmed my heart.
They mean to protect me from others in our industry who use perceived weakness as a weapon, aka the wrong hands. What my friends didn't know is that it was already happening. This agent I mentioned? They somehow heard some fraction or portion of my story. And because I haven't been transparent about it, it was their opportunity to tell their own version to the prospective client.
I’m taking that power back for myself.
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder.
If that raises alarms for you - whether it be personal or professional, the only thing I can do is tell you honestly that it shouldn't, and that it's unlikely nothing like you think it is. (If you're thinking it looks something like any character in a panickly movie, like say, The Shining, no - absolutely not!) Please, learn more by reading on, and feel free to ask me anytime.
I likely had it for many years prior, but didn’t realize it. Mine stems from continual abuse between the ages of 2 and 11. I hadn’t adequately dealt with the psychological repercussions. I’d convinced myself that I’d won the battle, and for over 20 years, I simply pushed ahead.
Panic Disorder is one sneaky bitch. A panic attack is a biochemical process that triggers on its own. I haven't experienced one in many years. That's because I've learned the very subtle precursory signs, and how to avoid it from there.
As I write this, I've realized something for the very first time! You can liken a panic attack to an earthquake:
There may be some smaller “pre-shocks” - vertigo, dizziness - in the days / weeks / months before the big one hits. It’s that unresolved pain searching for cracks, pushing through, and looking for the perfect spot to breach and rupture all at once. And when you least expect it, it happens. Then you’re left with cleaning up the debris, figuring out what needs repair and how to handle things should another one occur.
When I had “the big one,” I was by myself. Everything seemed level & good up until the moment it broke. My heart raced, my body began to tighten, I started to feel a disconnect - and I didn’t see it coming.
It was intense enough to confuse it for a heart attack or stroke. And residual signs continued afterward: escalated blood pressue, heart rate, high adrenaline for days until medical intervention started to show its results.
A neurologist diagnosed me after putting me through every kind of test, probes on my head, body, sliding into big machines with colorful lights. They helped me recover, though vulnerability for an attack is always there. It's prevented by taking care of myself.
None of this has ever negatively affected my work. Activity, interaction, engagement - including real estate - for me are full-stop prevention. The attacks I've experienced only occured when nothing else occured.
Managing my well-being has been a success. The two truly bad things about living with Panic Disorder, are its stigma, and knowing that there are people who may weaponize it.
The above is what triggered me to weigh the question: Should I quit being a Realtor? Coming out on the other side, I now know why it’s important for me to take full control of my story by sharing it with you openly. No one else can fictionalize me.
And I’ll be around to make sure.
Real estate needs as much “real” as possible. Real talents, real hearts, real minds, real human beings who truly care about helping people, and treat others with respect. I’m all of those things, and I won’t stop being a Realtor anytime soon.
Now please, ask me anything - even if you think it’s uncomfortable. The best thing that can come out of this is demystifying and destigmatizing the conversations about mental health.
By the way, May is Mental Health Awareness month… I didn’t plan the timing here, but I like the poignance. As for future blog entries, yes, there will be more stories. We will talk more about real estate, though not all boring stats & market updates. I want to give everyone something more, and I hope I succeeded in bringing you some value here.
Thank you for all of your support, and for just listening and allowing me to share my story with you.