The Power of
the Right Questions
Im a Realtor. In real estate theres a
lot that we cant control -- mainly other people -- but we also cant control
external factors that affect our business, such as interest rates and tornadoes. This
makes it a real roller coaster ride, up one day, down the next. If we dont learn to
handle our emotions, we find ourselves whipsawed day-in and day-out.
I was recently able to apply two newly learned life
lessons to cushion this ride.
The first lesson came from a spiritual study, A
Course in Miracles (ACIM). It tells me that I can control how I view the things that
happen to me. The second came from a tape by Tony Robbins, The Power of
Questions." It says that the kinds of questions I ask will determine whether I'll see
my way out of a mess when things aren't working well.
I had to put both these lessons to work recently,
while helping a couple look for a million-plus dollar house. We made offers on a couple of
places, but hadnt gone to contract because we couldnt get agreement between
seller and buyer. Finally, a house Id been hoping to show them for several months
was suddenly available. We saw the house; they called me that night and told me that
This is it! After investing so much time helping to find something they liked,
I was thrilled, to say the least. To make the good news even better, the price had come
down almost $300,000 as the Seller had become desperate to sell.
Fast Track Towards a Train Wreck: The buyer (an attorney) drafted his own first offer. Smelling a
"bargain" he bid another $140 thousand below asking price. He was hot onto the
scent of a steallike a hound on the trail of a rabbit, completely oblivious to
the seller's state of mind -- and completely oblivious to my advice.
The offer turned out to be way below the seller's
bottom line. After some more back and forth it appeared the deal was going south.
That was bad enough, but I was completely thrown
when my buyer then blamed me for the stalemate.
He said he "knew for a fact" that agents
cut commissions all the time (not true), and he was waiting for me and the other agent to
do the same.
Never mind that the price gap was so big the other
agent and I would have to give up virtually all we'd make -- and after so many headaches.
And let's ignore that the seller is now feeling so hassled he's not sure he wants to deal
with my buyer at all.
The next morning my client calls me and let me have
it. He let me know in no uncertain terms that our relationship would be finis!, caput!
over! if I didnt figure out how to do the deal on terms he could live with. He also
conveniently rewrote our own history completely discounting how hard Id worked, and
taking all of the credit.
Devastated doesnt begin to describe how I felt
at having my hard work invalidated. Even when you know the person putting you down is a
jerk, it doesn't completely take the sting out of it. I wanted to tell the Buyer to go
hurl himself out of a plane at low altitude.
But I also didnt want to lose this deal.
Finding the Tools: I knew that I could control how I viewed this, but it
wasn't as easy as pushing a button. So I set to work on myself. I concentrated on trying
to see the whole mess in a different way, but I was still wracked with anger and
self-doubt. That was the worst part, doubting myself, wondering if the buyer was right and
I'd blown it.
My plea was answered in interesting ways. ACIM would
call it a higher power, others would call it a higher self and some say it was
synchronicity. Whatever it was, I believe the tools I needed showed up for me because I
was driven to see.
First I got good feedback from my manager, who told
me the buyer sounded like a spoiled brat. Then I heard a helpful story from my good buddy,
Carla, who told me her agent had cut commission when she bought her house, enabling her to
afford a more expensive home. Both these points of view gave me different slants on my
story, and I was able to hear them because I was actively seeking other points of view.
That weekend, not knowing how helpful it would be, I
also happened to listen to Anthony Robbins The Power of Questions." Tony
says that if we ask questions that assign blame and fault, like Why is this
happening to me? or Why is my client so bullheaded? our brains will give
us fault-finding answers - such as Because you deserve it or (in my
case) Youre in over your head or You dont know how to handle
high rollers like this. All those answers had just made me feel more stuck.
But Tony points out how to turn those questions into
problem-solving queries: How can I turn this around? or How can I make
this work? or How can I make this a win/win for everybody? Put it that
way and your brain will look for solutions.
It took me all night to come up with a set of
alternatives, but I almost immediately began to feel better, from angry, hurt, and anxious
to calm, energetic and excited -- a much better state to come up with creative solutions.
First I decided that, instead of being mad at the
buyer, Id see him as my manager had, as a disappointed kid who usually got what he
wanted after staging a tantrum.
My next decision was to suggest to the seller that
instead of cutting my commission (which I make it a practice not do do), I'd invest an
equal sum in his new start-up business. Start- ups have an extremely high failure rate,
but it sure beat just giving him the money with no hope of ever seeing it again. He was
flattered and intrigued with that proposal, and I was pleased Id come up with a
Suddenly, my buyer also looked at me with new
respect, impressed Id had the presence of mind to come up with a novel suggestion
Breaking the Cycle:Those of us bouncing brains who are prone to overfocusing
have a tendency to get stuck in a loop and cycle it around in our minds, especially when
we let our emotions rule. Questions that force us to break out of the loop to consider
another angle can help reframe our focus, and that can unlock our innate creativity.
One of the things our overactive minds allow us to
do is what I call cross-pattern problem solving. We recognize similarities in dissimilar
things, and are able to cross apply solutions from one arena to another. But we cant
make use of that power if our emotions are running our minds. We have to put our minds in
So the next time you catch yourself asking Why
me? you might want to slap your forehead and ask "What are my choices?"