When Clients Lie…

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I love my job, and I love people, but working with people has its challenges.  Like when they lie. Most of the time I would expect that kind of thing from pushy agents, generally manipulative people, or maybe even a seller trying to hide a property flaw. Maybe. But sometimes it’s well-meaning people who lie. What happens when your clients – the people you’re trying to help – lie? 

Let me share a story. Jo is a fictional client of mine. She needs to sell her house to buy another. We have checked out multiple houses together, she has asked me to give her a valuation on her house so she can sell. (a valuation is A LOT of work by the way).  I devote hours of research and driving and effort to help Jo. I give her top quality, highly personalized service (that’s my thing you know) and then… it happens. I get the phone call that sounds something like this:
“Sorry Tina, I’ve decided not to sell or buy anything after all. Thanks anyway. Bye.”
Days later I hear her friends talking about how she – my supposed client- is in the process of moving. She lied.  Not only that, she decided to pay someone else for my time.

Jo is just one of many clients who do this. I know I’m not the only one to whom this happens, but somehow it still surprises me every time.

Once I get over the initial shock of someone lying to me for no apparent reason, I stop to consider that they might actually have a reason. A reason doesn’t make their lying right or fair, but it helps me understand.  And understanding someone else’s perspective reduces anger and replaces it with acceptance, maybe even love.

“Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other.
Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.” 

― John Steinbeck

So why would well-meaning people lie?  The more I think about it, the more there seem to be two common reasons: to avoid pain to self, or to avoid inflicting pain on others. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  To save people from pain sounds a little heroic even? In Jo’s case, she might have been trying to spare me the pain of hearing, “Actually, I was just using you from the start. I never intended to pay you for your time. Bye.”  (this is common by the way) Or maybe she was sparing herself the pain of admitting that truth. It’s easier just to lie and hope no one ever knows.

Why do people lie? Because truth is awkward and often painful. And we squirm from pain as much as possible.

How can we lovingly deal with people when we are certain we’re being used or lied to? As far as clients go, I serve them anyway. I treat them like they’re any other honest client, and give them a high standard of care and service.  My service is my business card. I do not fly into a fit of rage, tear my card in half, and throw it at the clients. They all get the same, pristine business card. They all are treated with the respect that I would hope to have.
What they do with it is their choice.


Have you ever felt like someone’s every word was a lie? How do you deal with it?


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jeff Stern

    Tina, as unsettling this post is, it screams loud and true. Most people are not liers but there are a number that do and of that number, a small percentage live their lives doing it and the larger percentage just fall into a situation that they don’t know how to fce us, so they make something up. I was raised to be true to myself and others and to admit my mistakes but many did not have that rearing. In our industry, I have found in my almost 23 years that real estate is an opportunistic business. One day someone has no plans to move (or did have plans that changed) and then something happens (illness, death, financial matters etc.) and they not only become active but buy or sell in a knee-jerk reaction like wandering into an open house, calling on an ad or hearing of a home from a friend. Like you, I give my all to everyone knowing I will be hurt at times but more times than not all works out and my clients are happy just as yours. If we lived our business life in doubt, we would not be able to be the stability our clients need and deserve from a true professional. People like Jo, your fictional client will surface time and again but building a relationship based on open communication will always serve people better.

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