Maintaining Boundaries

Ifeel it’s important in workshops to share stories of adversity, challenge and difficulty. My goals are not to bring others down, not to “vent” about problems, but to unpack the situation and understand that most challenging situations usually boil down to someone having poor boundaries or a lack of empathy in a situation.

I will spend a lot of time on “time management” in our sessions and that begins with healthy boundaries. As real estate agents, we are all at the mercy of our phones, or so it seems. there is a never ending barrage of requests, demands, brush fires and late evening conversations, as we do our best to accommodate our client’s schedules, time differences and time restrictions. This generally implies that we work beyond regular working hours, Sundays and vacations. So many agents jovially say that they “never get a vacation.”
I am always so disheartened to hear this. The expectation of our being available 24/7 is unrealistic and is the leading cause of burnout in this industry. We become workaholics driven by the fear of losing a deal because we don’t answer the phone. We fear losing a client because we can’t make a showing. We rise from the family dinner table because another demanding agent (with poor boundaries) is demanding a signature on a contract.
What if we, as agents begin to change the fabric of our profession. What if we set the standard? What if we behave differently and we make the paradigm shift and lead by example?
This is my story.
In the midst of a difficult transaction with a first time homebuyer with shaky financing, at the last hour of our due diligence period, the lender calls and informs me that the financing will not work for the buyer. As a buyer’s agent, it’s my responsibility to protect the earnest money and the buyer’s interest and inform the listing agent that under the protection of due diligence, we will have to terminate. It happens. It’s happened to us all at some point, and as upsetting as the last minute termination is, in the last hour, it’s still our responsibility to protect our client.
On this particular day, I was taking a much needed day off. I was with a family member who had been ill and spending some time away from the office. I was not in a place to talk, not in a place to grab a computer and not in a place to handle business the way that I normally do. In a previous blog, I had mentioned my disdain for texting and my support for conversations around difficult situations. That all had to fly out the window at that moment. I had 30 minutes to deliver the written notice. I stepped away from my family and composed an email on my phone to terminate the contract, with my express apologies for all the last minute details. I explained that I was not in a place that I could have a conversation around this but that I wanted to see what we could do in the aftermath to try to resuscitate the deal and that due to the time limitations on my discovery period, this was a necessary evil so to speak. I also explained that my family was a priority at this time.
What followed was jarring. I first got an email calling me unprofessional and that I was not following the contractual obligations, and then a demand to call her…which I obliged. She informed me that being with my family was not an excuse to not “do my job” as she had lost her parents within a year and had never used that as an excuse. I was a weakling and undeserving of being a real estate agent.
OK – so what we have here is two different perspectives. My boundaries are that I will not allow my work to interfere with my family. Period. I was angry and upset at the accusations that I was unprofessional. She was angry and upset that I wasn’t in line with her beliefs that work should always come first at the mercy of relationships. She couldn’t comprehend that someone out there doing the same job as she does, gave themselves permission to take time for themselves and family. Two complete and opposite views. And here lies the conflict.
The resolution. This is where the list of your priorities and values comes in to play. If you honor your time, your energy and your relationships, learning to let go of the anger that comes with being falsely accused and berated becomes easier especially when you know your boundaries and honor them. You can’t change the way someone behaves, you can only change your reaction to the situation. Grab the mental checklist of those values and boundaries and litmus test the situation. Did you act within YOUR values or were you trying to hold yourself accountable to someone else’s? If you take a day off, then take a day off. Protect it and be in that moment. No one should ever be expected to take on the loss of a parent or other strains and stresses of life without compassion from self or others, without giving yourself permission to breathe, or make a mistake.
Give pause. Give grace. We learn from these moments because we learn what is important to our lives. We learn that always being kind in situations usually brings the best results, collaboration and answers that we may not have gotten if we go flying off the handles. Kindness begins with ourselves.