Nov 03, 2017 by - David Serpa

5 Tips for Establishing Boundaries as an Empath in Real Estate

“What did he just say?” “Every time I think that Serpa guy can’t jump any further off the deep end… he goes deeper.”

Well stinker butts, get into your submarines and strap on your fancy yellow outfits–it’s time to go deeper! A lot of amazingly fantastic, spectacular splendiferous empathetic human beings gravitate toward Real Estate. Some of them learn to find balance and do well in Real Estate. Others mask it, compensating for everyone’s shortcomings around them, until they “burn out.” Sometimes you find the agent that makes the choice to change everything, digs deep, gives it their all, and they see a brief shining moment of something incredible before they make the choice to give up. There’s nothing simple about the sort of frustration and pain that comes along with watching a Real Estate agent–with a ton of potential–start to shine, only to get pulled back into the same sort of self-destructive “dumping ground” behavior that they came to me with. It’s devastating!

So how can you tell if you are an empath working in Real Estate?

Here are a few examples:

  • You close a deal that no one could have gotten closed but you! You are the reason it got done, you are the one that cared enough to find the program, to find the loan, to find the house, and you made it happen at the last minute by cutting into your commission! You made $500 but you changed someone’s life! Cool! You pass off the keys and get into your car and start bawling by yourself–an overwhelmed ball of emotional raw energy.
  • A client or fellow agent calls you devastated. So you’re devastated. You immediately internalize their problem. You can solve it after all. You know you can. You can heal their wounds. And until then, you won’t sleep. You actually get to a point where you care more than they do!
  • You have a business card that says, “We make dreams come true” or “I sell dreams”–something about “dreams” and “realities” and you mean it. I get it! We do sell dreams, opportunities, steps up, possibilities, pride and stability. It’s an easy thing to get behind! Even total cheapskates believe in homeownership. Now if we could just stop feeling like we are selling anyone anything!

If you think that just sounds like a woman… That’s okay, guy who only cold calls. Not all of us got what you got, and you may not have this. If this sounds like you, I want to help you with your relationships with your clients, other agents in the office or team, and agents on the other side of the transaction by giving you five tips for Establishing Boundaries as an Empath in Real Estate!

Tip 1: Establish Time Boundaries Early

Have you ever gotten up from dinner to show properties? Have you ever taken a work call in the middle of a conversation with your kids? Have you taken a call at 1:38 a.m.? I have done all of these things! I used to tell people “I am available 24/7!” and then I would take calls at weird hours, and one time I even took a call at 1:38 a.m. and popped out of bed like I wasn’t freaking in the middle of REM sleep. The guy was flabbergasted: “I didn’t expect you to pick up.”

Have you worried that maybe you can handle it, but that your family cannot? That maybe it’s too much for them? It is too much for them! And, honestly, it’s too much for you and eventually you will crack. If not your mind, your body. Take it from me! So schedule time off with your family and record your voicemail saying when you are available and when clients can expect a call back and unplug. When you come back to work, you will be better for your clients, your family, other agents, and you will set a new standard of professionalism in this industry.

Tip 2: Act As If You Are An Unemotional Attorney

I know you get emotionally invested in your clients. Good! I do too. You should. It’s one of the reasons you are a fantastic agent but you have to be careful of becoming so emotionally invested that it actually inhibits your ability to represent them properly. Why do people say you “shouldn’t” work with friends or family? A lot of times, it is not because their abilities as agents but their emotional involvement that skews their ability to represent their clients/family properly. They price listings too high, get walked on and overall do a lousy job representing their families. There are exceptions to every rule, but it isn’t fun to talk about exceptions, so let’s move on.

Your attorney is not going to call you and ask you to dinner at their personal residence while they’re representing you during your divorce. Your attorney is not going to meet you “really quick” dressed like they’ve had a Wednesday and Wednesday hit back. Your attorney is not going to text you emoticons at 11:32 p.m.

Part of “acting as if you are an unemotional attorney” is dressing professionally! Ladies, don’t wear yoga pants. Gentleman, drop the sandals. It is an important distinction to make–to be the professional. If you dress and act like a “friend,” they will expect “friend” stuff. Do friends make good agents?

Tip 3: Avoid Triangulation

Part of “acting as if you are an unemotional attorney” is knowing when to put on, and keep on, the “professional hat.” If you are helping a couple divide their assets, you need to be the professional. If you are helping a family sell off their assets, you need to be the professional. If you are negotiating a contract, you need to be the professional. If I am helping a couple that is going through a divorce and divide their assets, they will, inevitably, try and pull me in. I totally get where they are coming from, but when she calls and gives you the story about how terrible he is, or he calls and tells you how manipulative she is, you have to avoid triangulating. You can’t pick sides.

Script takeaway: “I understand this is incredibly hard and I promise you that I will do everything I can to make sure you are both being represented properly. I want to do everything I can to help, but I have to stay one step removed from that in order to effectively do my job. I am going to do the same thing for you with your ex. I appreciate you understanding!” and move on.

They’re allowed to have emotional outbursts! They’re allowed to triangulate! They’re clients. We are the professionals and we have to keep cool heads. We are not allowed to function in drama. Just realize that when you avoid being a co-conspirator in a triangulation attempt, more often than not, you will end up as the “villain” and will be triangulated against.

The best way to avoid triangulation is to function only in bilateral communication. Which is strictly “A to B” conversation where you do not talk about third parties. That is me with a client, me with a fellow agent, me talking with anyone directly.

A lot of beautiful empaths flock to Real Estate, a lot of mixed-up ones do too, and a lot of hurt people that flourish in triangulation do very well here. So what is triangulation and who is using it against you?

Villain: likely you at any given time. Someone that has been campaigned against. “The lousy agent on the other side,” “The stupid sellers,” “The idiot lender,” “the arrogant jerk” in the office that is successful, etc.

Damsel in Distress: the poor client. The poor seller that needs x, y and z. The poor buyers that “just need to move in early,” the “newer agents that could really use your time.” You. Etc. Beware anyone that wants to make you feel like a damsel in distress. This is likely the beginnings of a manipulative relationship.

Hero: lots of sick people go around wanting to be everyone’s “hero.” They’re well-intentioned but function in constant triangulation. They don’t know what to do without a “damsel in distress.” They need broken people to survive. A lot of times our heroes are manipulated by villains that appear to be the damsel in distress… see why you only want to function in bilateral relationships?

It is very easy to be sucked into this way of working. It’s fun to be the hero! Hell, it’s easy to start pointing fingers at “the stupid agent” or “the greedy seller” or “the lender.” It’s not easy to get on the phone with whoever is being the problem and communicate the issue and determine what the problem actually is! The quickest route is bilateral communication. There is nowhere to hide.

Once you have the real answer, now you need to provide the best possible solutions for your clients and it is up to them to make the decisions. I’m not a religious person, though I have a great deal of respect for it and for religious people. That being said, the serenity prayer should be carried (in essence) in the heart of every empathic Real Estate agent or business person. Don’t let anyone sell you guilt. Remember what you can, and cannot change, and keep “the wisdom to know the difference.”

I try to use “we” as much as possible in bilateral communication to remind all parties, subconsciously and as much as possible, that we are working together toward a common goal. “win, win, or no deal.” So I like to say, “Your clients want the house. My clients want to sell the house. I think we are really close to making this work if we can just–” fill in the blank. When two people are communicating, bilaterally, over the phone or in person, very little can be miscommunicated, and the problems can be quickly identified, and where there is a will, there’s a way. Once we have the honest and unemotional answers, we can establish if there is still the “will.”

Tip 4: Avoid Negative Agents

You are going to want to avoid negativity everywhere you possibly can, but let’s keep it Real Estate related! It’s not always easy to recognize negative agents because they’re not always bad people; everything you want to try has been tried and failed, they hate when you farm, they hate when you hold open houses, everything is a “waste of time,” and they wear it on their exasperated faces! Their negativity doesn’t belong to you. You can literally just decide not to internalize it.

As empaths, we flock to strong emotions. We flock to people who need us. If you are an empath that has struggled with “identity” or “self-love” you are primed for falling victim to the “cool kids” in Real Estate and you will start thinking “I am frustrated!” “This is stupid!” What were you doing before? Remember why you left and avoid negativity like the plague.

Now on the contrast, when you meet positive people, they will be smiling, everything is a “good idea” or they “have a better idea for how to make that work,” or a better option altogether. Isn’t that rad? The right crowd isn’t hard to distinguish in this industry.

Tip 5: Understand Your Success & the Way It Will Be Received

Now understand that your success will be received with a lot of negativity from those around you because as you start coming into more of what you were designed for–when you do things that honor your design–money comes, opportunities come, you’ll flock to positive people, they’ll flock to you. Life will be good. You will not be able to stop telling everyone how great life is and it will be difficult to understand why they don’t want to change the things that are so clear to you. It will be even more difficult to understand why it will feel like they can’t be happy for you. They can’t be happy for you because they are, and have always been, low-vibrating people. When you change your life and help others to do the same you will no longer have the time for the people that use empaths as “emotional dumping grounds.”

These people only call with negativity. They call immediately when something bad happens in their lives. You internalize it. They are able to externalize and remove some of their garbage. They hang up feeling better and you hang up feeling worse! Some of these people call every few years to dump when some really tragic time is happening in their lives. Some of them have recently popped in as our newest project and they call with every, single, little issue because they have used up all of their other empaths and have now moved onto you. Some are your parents, your spouses and those closest to you.

They can’t be happy for you because of what your success means for them. It’s possible. They don’t have an excuse. They want their lack of approval to affect you. Luckily for you, your happiness is not tied to their approval. And when you are greeted with negativity because you are challenging everything, they feel about themselves because they tied their identity into their expectations for you, let them have their negativity. It doesn’t belong to you.

In conclusion:

If you can set boundaries, act as if you are an unemotional attorney, avoid triangulation, protect yourself from negativity, and understand that your success will make people uncomfortable–and then get comfortable with them being uncomfortable–the world is your oyster! I can tell you now, after recording 14 episodes of “It’s About More Than Real Estate: with David Serpa” that these five tips are a steady through-line in many of the incredibly successful agents on my team, many of the best team leaders that I have interviewed in this industry, and in my own personal life as someone that is empathic. You can feel weird by the gifts that you have or you can take the time to honor your design, understand your instrument, and live every last second that you can squeeze from this incredibly beautiful, exponentially unpredictable, ever-changing life and go to the grave with tired old bones and smile wrinkles and a head full of stories about the things you are glad you did instead of the shots you wish you took.

Get after it. Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate your feedback and am grateful for every share! Make sure to watch the companion video to this on YouTube.


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