Rules for CORE Agents #19: Never Argue With a Client, Or, Really, Anyone.

I deal with angry clients all the time.  I’m the lawyer for my company, and if I’m talking to a real estate client, it’s usually because they’re so unhappy that they want to break a contract or sue me or something.  I don’t get to talk to the happy clients.

So I talk to these angry people, who sometimes have legitimate complaints but more often are just unhappy for some reason, and they’re taken a patchwork of relatively mild problems and stitched into a colorful quilt of discontent.  And I’ve found one simple way to soothe them: I hear them out, I apologize, and I ask them what I can do to make it better. More often than not, it works.

I don’t argue with them, because it’s pointless to argue with anyone, particularly someone who is angry. You know what happens when two people get into an argument?  They both become increasingly convinced that they’re right.  The more they argue their points, the more committed they become to their position.

Think about it.  Have you ever been in an argument with someone that ultimately sincerely agreed with your position?  Someone who ended the argument by simply saying something like, “You know what?  I have heard what you said, and you’ve convinced me!”   Usually, most arguments end with one person just giving up and, at best, sarcastically saying in a huff, “fine, you win. I give up.”

What’s the lesson?  Don’t argue. It’s pointless.  In particular, don’t argue with a client. It’s worse than pointless.  It’s expensive.  That’s the whole point of the saying, “the client is always right.”  Of course, the client is not always right.  The client is often very, very wrong.  But it doesn’t matter, because there’s no advantage in arguing with her.

Let’s say that your client is upset about something that’s really not your fault.  The “for sale” sign fell down and no one fixed it, some website screwed up your listing feed, a buyer didn’t show up to see the house when she was supposed to. Whatever.  The client is upset, and is taking it out on you. And of course you want to argue, because it’s unfair.  Maybe the client is being unreasonable, or rude, or even abusive.  But what is arguing going to accomplish? Are you going to convince her that she’s wrong?  Are you going to “win” the argument?  Of course not!

Be the bigger (and smarter!) person. Apologizing does not make you weak.  Taking responsibility for problems that are really outside your control doesn’t mean you lose face.  It means that you’re smart and secure.

Now, I’m not saying that you should routinely put up with abusive clients. You have to use your judgment as to whether putting up with some crazy person is worth your time and energy.  But if they’re that tough to work with, then you should just fire them.  You shouldn’t waste all that time and energy arguing with them.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.