It’s easy to say “don’t act from fear,” but how do you know when you’re in fear? And how do you know which path to take? We always know, even when we think we don’t know.
When fear gets in the way, how do you know what to do?
Last year, I met with a potential new real estate client, a seller with a home in the $2.5 million range. The initial result of our meeting was positive; the woman wanted to hire me.
It would have been a great listing for me. I knew I could sell it quickly, if I priced it right and if she was willing to do what needed to be done in the apartment. But the woman was difficult. The home had already been on the market for several months with another agent and hadn’t received offers. She wanted to sell quickly, yet she was unwilling to do her part in helping facilitate that result. She fought me on commission, on staging, on pricing.
The constant battles were draining my energy. I felt it in my body, and I could see the signs. What would be the price of taking on this business: to my physical and emotional health, to my other clients, to the other areas of my life?
I know my value, and I had to stand in it. I had to draw a line.
I called her up and laid the cards on the table. I explained how I have helped other clients get the type of results she desired. Then I took a deep breath and I said,
If that doesn’t work for you, then maybe we’re not a fit to work together.
Her response: “I’ll need to think about it”.
The moment I hung up the phone, I heard my inner voice:
No. I don’t want you to think about it. I wanted to tell you I’m not willing to work with you. It’s not a good fit for ME.
I had intended my comment to be more forceful, to have the effect of setting her free. To say what I said was a big step — a step that few, if any, real estate agents take. But I hadn’t gone far enough. I realized that I hadn’t fully expressed myself.
It’s fair to say that a part of me still wanted to take this on; I simply wanted her to be on board with what needed to be done.
The next day, as I was preparing to teach a new workshop for real estate agents, I found myself distracted and hitting up Google for answers. I paused to observe my actions. What was I asking Google?
How to know when you should work with someone? No.
How to know if it’s intuition or ego? No.
I was searching for:
How to turn down a prospective client.
Surprisingly, there is very little on this. Or maybe it’s not surprising. More on that another time.
The moment I observed my actions, I knew I had to tell this woman in a more forceful way that I would not take her on as a client.
By paying attention to what I was searching for — by bringing mindfulness to my Google search — I led myself to the answer. Of course, I realized that I already knew this answer. I had known it all along.
Prior to this conversation, I had felt the signs in my body for weeks. The sore throat. The constricted chest. The lower back pain. All signs. I had noticed them, but ignored them.
I had noticed my energy levels whenever I thought about this woman. I noticed how it made me feel to imagine this type of combative back and forth for the life of the relationship.
Even the choice of who I discussed it with — and more important, who I avoided discussing this with — told me the answer.
I did not discuss it with my parents because I knew they would likely be guided by their fears for my financial security. I did not discuss it with my manager because he would be biased by his financial interest.
After receiving an email from this woman, I wrote a lengthy reply to her — a reply that I never sent to her. I wrote it for me, as a way to process my thoughts.
I sought guidance from a few trusted mentors — people who know how to hold space and listen to the subtext as well as the words. I listened to what they reflected back to me.
So even before this call where I drew the line, I knew.
If I knew it all along, why didn’t I fully express myself? Why didn’t I tell her in that conversation that I wouldn’t work with her?
The easy answer is that at the time of that conversation, it wasn’t yet obvious to me. It didn’t become obvious until after I hung up the phone, and until the Google search the next day.
You know I don’t go for the easy answer. Looking back, the signs were there. So how did I not know?
The grip of fear overpowers the other signals our bodies send. It blinds us to what is right in front of us. The grip of fear forced me to look at something else.
Bank account. Future business. Reputation.
Are those things relevent when you are in business for yourself? Yes.
It’s to say “no, that’s not relevant at all.” But that’s bullshit. You’ve got to eat. You’ve got to bring in business. In a service business, reputation matters. Every new client is an opportunity to spread the word about your talents and skills.
Are these the places where we should look to guide our decisions about what business to take? No.
These things are ego. They are driven by fear.
But we look there, because the pull of fear can be strong. Fear pulls us to those places. In that process it can pull us out of alignment with our values and our identity.
When we are in fear, we cannot stand in our power.
When we are in fear, we cannot stand in our purpose.
When we are in fear, we cannot stand in our value.
To get out of the fear requires us to navigate a clear path into ourselves. To get clear on our identity, our purpose and our values. And to get clear on the value we offer to others.
We must be willing to step back and observe. Taking a pause — even for a moment — slows us down enough to remove the blindfolds. With open eyes, we can see the signs. With an open heart, we can feel the answer.
That’s what I did.
I allowed myself to be in the emotion of it.
I felt the feelings in my body.
I listened for the answers.
And I noticed everything.
What my body told me.
What my choices told me.
What my writing told me.
What my Google search told me.
In the end, I declined to take her on as a client. Scary? Definitely. And also empowering. in the truest sense of the word. I stood in my value and my power. It injected me with confidence.
It’s not a one time thing. But each time, it gets easier.
Step back. Observe. Notice what you notice.
See how often you do know, even when you think you don’t know.