Setting Boundaries for Your Clients
It's easy for homebuyers, sellers and those working in real estate to get caught up in the urgency of it all. As a result, your clients may seem more demanding of your time than ever before.
"People expect us to be available 24-seven – and for our responses to be immediate," according to Sherri Souza, CRS, GRI, PMN, who is Women’s Council’s national recording secretary and a REALTOR® in Livermore, CA.
Does this sound familiar? After a long day of showing houses, you sit for dinner, and now your cell phone rings. It could be a client, a prospective client or an update on a deal. Instinctively, you drop your fork and answer the phone, only to discover your client had an easy-fix problem that could have waited until tomorrow.
You feel stress and resentment, which prevents you from enjoying your meal and the company with whom you are sharing the meal. The solution is to set boundaries for your clients, like telling them that they cannot reach you after 6:00 p.m., right? Think again.
Our natural reaction is often to set boundaries so that the people in our lives don't, as the expression goes, walk all over us. A boundary is a line that you create that tells others that they're not allowed to cross it. When you're focused on boundaries, you're specifically focusing on what you disallow other people to do to you.
It reminds me of the episode of "The Brady Bunch" in which Peter and Bobby have to share a room, and Peter puts tape across the floor to indicate that they are to stay on their respective sides. This boundary backfires, trapping Peter on the side of the room with no bathroom.
Setting boundaries for your clients is far less comedic – it pushes them away, which may create tension and hostility. What it doesn't accomplish is it doesn't build a stronger relationship with your client, or get you a future referral. It says to your client that they cannot be on your team.
Not only do boundaries push clients away, but they also set up a trap for you. They draw your attention to what you don't want of people, rather than what you do want. It's like leaning up against your door so that no one can come in. In doing so, you are giving up the possibility of enjoying the space and the pleasures that the room has to offer. You're not achieving what you desire because you're focusing all of your energy on keeping the door closed.
Rather than creating and implementing boundaries, create pathways to entry. You don't need to make a big sign that reads, "Don't call me after 6:00 p.m." Rather than telling clients when not to contact you, tell them when they will find it easiest to reach you. Consider, "I'm available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. today," as opposed to, "don't call me tonight."
The key is to manage your own thinking and emotions regardless of the way your clients behave, rather than attempting to control their actions. It's your thinking about what's happening that causes stress – not the actual situation. The issue is not that the phone rang; the issue is how you let the ring affect you, the urgency around it and how you prioritize your time.
What has you constantly answering work emails, texts and phone calls? Oftentimes, it's a hidden belief that if you don't answer the phone, something bad will happen. A client may be disappointed or perceive you poorly, or a deal may fall through. It's not the phone call that's unbearable; it's your belief about the phone call that is.
Most people are not aware of how their thoughts and their beliefs impact them. The way you think about any subject can either create peace or anxiety. You hold certain beliefs that make you bend over backwards for your clients taking you to the point of pain and strain. Maybe you do it because you believe you should or that it's what's expected of you.
If you don't want to be working all the time, ask yourself what you do want. Focus on the things that you want, rather than protecting the things you don't. Don't set boundaries for the people in your life. Define the life you want, and live that way.
Kim Ades, MBA, is president and founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and JournalEngine Software. Author, speaker, entrepreneur, coach and mother of five, Kim is an educator on performance through the focus of the mind and thought mastery. She works with clients who are determined to achieve outstanding goals and helps them examine and shift their thinking to yield better results. For more information on her coaching approach, visit www.frameofmindcoaching.com.
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