At TRREB’s first women-focused virtual event, Real Women , held this past April, body language expert and former undercover police officer and prosecutor Pamela Barnum showed TRREB Member REALTORS® and guests across North America how to negotiate with ease and confidence. If you missed her inspiring talk, don’t fret: she recently joined TRREB President Lisa Patel on the Ready to Real Estate podcast to go over her key insights on how to steer your next conversation to success.
As part of a 20-year career in criminal justice, Pamela’s lived under assumed identities alongside dangerous people – but never had an instance of violence. The techniques and systems that she employed to keep herself and those around her safe, and tense situations from boiling over, are the same ones that any REALTOR® can use with clients, vendors, or anyone else in your line of business. She narrows it down to the three “Ds” – Display, Decode, and Detect.
The first, display, is about displaying confidence from within yourself, and empathy and interest towards the people you’re interacting with. Pamela is careful to define confidence as awareness of your own competency, and not arrogance.
One key way to display your confidence and empathy is with eye contact. Maintaining eye contact between 60–70 per cent of the time is about what it takes to be engaging. How do you measure that on the fly? Pamela’s tip: it should be enough eye contact to know the eye colour of the person to whom you’re speaking. She also stresses that, especially during the pandemic where we’re masked more often than not, you have to let your eyes smile for you. Lisa adds that the eyes are “the window to the soul,” and challenges every TRREB Member to try out the eye colour trick!
An important point: Toronto and its surrounding cities are wonderfully multicultural, and this means having special awareness of cultural norms and practices that might differ from your own, including around personal space and eye contact.
The second, decode, means reading someone’s body language to the extent that you can identify sudden shifts in mood or sticking points that weren’t there before. When in a large group, you can read the energy in the room overall, and pick out powerbrokers and decision-makers (not always the same people, says Pamela!). In a small group or one-on-one, you’re able to read mood changes and do more to influence decision-makers.
Decoding body language is key to negotiating because we’ve all been in situations where we thought everything was going well, only to have it completely derail at the last minute. Paying close attention to your conversation partner’s unconscious behaviours can help you identify these moments before it’s too late. Pamela uses the example of something as simple as a coffee mug. You’ve just discussed the purchase of a house and are having a pleasant conversation until you mention a small defect with the property. The potential buyer puts down their coffee cup on the table between you. Pamela says that this mug represents a physical barrier that the person may be erecting, and it’s up to you to steer the conversation back to a place of safety for them, and back on track.
The final D is detect. As a REALTOR®, you know it’s your job to protect your client’s interests, and that includes against potential problems with the property they’re considering. You can train yourself to detect deception cues that others give off.
When detecting, it’s important to establish someone’s baseline. Lisa comments that she tends to move around a lot when talking, then asks, does that make her look untrustworthy? Pamela assures her, no, that’s just her baseline. In the instance that someone is often moving, a sudden stop or freeze could be a deception cue. She says that you look for changes in baseline behaviour in response to a “stimulus” – in this case, something like a photo of the property. Suddenly avoiding eye contact or “grooming” behaviour like fixing hair or adjusting a collar are all examples of possible deception cues.
Real estate conversations have a lot on the line and are highly emotionally-loaded – especially for residential real estate – so it’s critically important to be able to navigate them well. For more of Pamela’s negotiation techniques, don’t miss her episode .
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