No More Burnout! It's Not Your Monkey!

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

The other day I had a three-way conversation with two agents who are in the middle of career crises. Both are trying to decide whether to stay or go, interestingly, for opposite reasons. AgentFriend1 has too much business and is burning out and AgentFriend2, well, doesn't. Have too much business, that is. And she's burning out, too.

We talked about burnout and both agents confessed that they become deeply involved in their clients' personal situations and get sucked into the emotional drama of it all. Which isn't uncommon in our business; after all, we ARE deeply involved in the whole mess - if our seller doesn't have enough equity to properly price; if our buyer's loan changes and they have to come up with an additional 5% down; if our listing doesn't appraise and the deal crashes... yes, these events DO affect us both financially and emotionally. And frankly, if they didn't affect us, we probably wouldn't be effective at our jobs.

But you can draw a line and preserve your sanity. Terry Watson calls it "the Monkey." He describes how we wrongly let others put their monkeys on our backs - even though we have our own monkeys to deal with, thank you very much! We real estate agents are really good at accepting our clients' monkeys as our own.

And you know what? Our clients are HAPPY to give us their monkeys and then blame us when things go wrong. Further, we accept that blame - which puts us in a position where we have to apologize for our inability to solve a problem that ISN'T OURS TO SOLVE.

Here's an example. The seller owes $415,000 on his home. The market value is no more than $395,000 and that's pushing it. In order to break even, the seller needs to sell at $430,000 at least. The seller "doesn't want to do a short sale," so he looks to his agent for another solution. What solution does the agent come up with?

1.       Price at $439,900 and hope for a miracle

2.       Reduce her commission to nothing and price at $420,000 (and hope for a miracle)

Of course, there are other solutions, but we monkey-acceptors want to please, so these are the ones we propose. (And then we're miserable because we have an unsellable product, but that's another story).

Here's another example. You interview for a tenant-occupied listing. The seller doesn't want to inconvenience the tenant, so he asks for a 24-hour showing requirement; for day-time showings only; that you attend all showings, and a 60-day possession. You want to please the seller, so you agree, knowing what he's asking will make the properly unmarketable... and you miserable.

Do too many of these deals and I think burnout IS an inevitability.

Of course, it's easy to advise "Well, just thank the %$SOB^# very much for the opportunity and walk away!" I hear that advice all the time, and sure, that's an option. But there's a better way... a way to respectfully decline the monkey and move forward without alienating someone who could be a wonderful client and future referral source.

Stay tuned...(actually, you might have to wait a week for the sequel - I'm heading out for my vacation tomorrow and have been duly informed that I will NOT spend my vacation on the computer. But maybe I can sneak it in!)

The Monkey Series
Part II Which Monkeys Are Yours? Which Aren't?
Part III Declining the Monkey Part III
Part IV What to Say (or not say) to Decline the Monkey
Part V A real world example of a Monkey Unnecessarily Accepted


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The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Robin Rogers 09/11/2009 01:40 AM
  2. Bob Murphy 09/11/2009 05:55 AM
  3. John Martelotti 09/21/2009 10:04 AM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Learn to be a Top Producing Listing Agent
Selling Soulfully
POSITIVE ATTITUDE for the Weary Soul
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Kerry Jenkins
Prime Properties - Crestline, CA

Stay off the computer!  It's a vacation!!!  Great post, and so true.  I have become involved in my clients dramas to the point where I almost got an ulcer on one deal.  I was getting horrible stomachaches daily.  A couple others I got such high blood pressure that the thought of the escrow made my blood pressure rise and I'd get red in the face!  How's that for UNHEALTHY!


Sep 12, 2009 06:09 AM #32
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

Some Agents do okay with a monkey or that isn't theirs, but when they start carrying the music box and a coin change belt the Agent starts to stoop over with the weight.  Not a pretty site!

Sep 12, 2009 08:35 AM #33
Alisa Stone Herring
Stone Real Estate Group, LLC - Panama City Beach, FL

Thanks for this post! This is exactly what I needed to hear/ read right now. I have a big monkey on my back at this very moment. One of my closest friends has way to much Debt to Income and cannot seem to get another loan for a home. She keeps on making offers on properties asking for the sellers to owner finance and then today she called and told me about the Obama Distressed Home Buyer plan and that she should be able to get a loan on an REO and I should be able to figure it out for her.....well.....I am a great Realtor and good at what I do....but it is NOT my moneky that she cannot get a loan due to her bad decisions, not my Monkey.


Thanks for the post!


Hope you are having a good day!



Sep 12, 2009 10:35 AM #34
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

Wow.  I need to stop monkeying around.  Can't wait for the next installment.

Sep 12, 2009 11:36 AM #35
Barb Mihalik
RE/MAX Elite - Suntree, FL

I'm waiting with bated breath for the sequel.  I want to learn how to rid myself of monkeys!

Sep 12, 2009 11:42 AM #36
Melissa Brown
Helen Adams Realty - Charlotte, NC
Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale

Oh...oh....oh.....I NEED that MONKEY ADVICE!  I will stay tuned for your next post!  Doggone it, I DO get too emotionally involved and want to please FAR too much.  Terrible character flaw in this business.  Hope you have a GREAT vacation, "my real estate mama!"  (even though I'm way older than you are!!!

Sep 12, 2009 12:02 PM #37
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Melissa - it's NOT a character flaw!!! But you can get out from under the stress and your client will think you're fabulous... even more fabulous than if you take the monkey.

Barb - Me, too. Guess I better think of something. jk

Margaret - Ditto

Alisa- perfect example

Evelyn - GREAT visual!

Amy. Calm down, girl

Thanks, Erica, I intend to.

Sep 12, 2009 12:33 PM #38
Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux
Keller Williams Suburban Realty - West Orange, NJ
Where Buying & Selling Works

Empathy, not sympathy.

Be supportive; not a crutch.

This is their life; this is your business.

Know the difference.

Sep 12, 2009 01:37 PM #39
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

You are so right, it is so easy for us to think we can solve all their problems even when it is impossible.  We have to stay professional in our behavior and consulting, especailly as we empathize with their situation.

Sep 12, 2009 03:59 PM #40
R.E. Renée Hoover, Salesperson
Century 21 Geba Realty, Milford, PA; Licensed in PA & NYS - Milford, PA
Poconos, Pike, Wayne, Monroe Counties, PA; PA/NYS

Enjoyed this post Jennifer, as well as your other links!  You present a difficult position to be in because taking a listing such as you described is a 2 way street whereby the agent then takes on the responsibility of marketing a listing that has little chance of success.  That basically amounts to doing a lot of work for "free" and no one wishes to work for free (including that potential client)!

Sep 13, 2009 12:53 AM #41
Mark Velasco
Sharpstone Commercial - Whittier, CA
Top Producing COMMERCIAL Team 30+ years experience

Jennifer. I am a big softie at heart when it comes to other people's monkey. This is why I force myself to hand them off to a coworker who I label "distressed property specialist." Really it is just that I hate giving bad news and I will pass it on to someone who can tell them the truth and give me a 30% referral in the process.

Sep 13, 2009 10:37 AM #42
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

An old phrase for a reason, it's been happening with realtors for a long time.  We offer so much in an effort to help that we take on too much responsibility of others.  You have to throw the ball back where it belongs.  I think when people are new in the business, that is the hardest point to learn.  That's why newbies only spend 5 years or so in the business in my opinion.

Sep 13, 2009 10:44 AM #43

Point well taken. There is a BIG difference between serving someone and pleasing them. 

Sep 13, 2009 10:49 AM #44
Eric Cavanagh

Jennifer, Your absolutely on the button:

To empathize is to understand how the feel, to sympathize is to feel the same way they do.  To put it another way; to empathize is to cry with them, to sympathize is to cry for them..

We always want to be sympathetic for others, we just simply can't afford to do so.  To the extent that we are in a personal relationship, such as a family member or a very close friend, we might make the emotional investment but we need to understand that our emotions are a finite resource and we need to be wary of how we choose to expend our emotions.  Too wide and too thin and we have burnout. 

Can't wait for the next post!

Sep 13, 2009 12:45 PM #45
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate


There is such a thing as boundaries and they need to be established right up front. Your clients will respect them if you do!! Thanks for some great the post.

Sep 13, 2009 02:18 PM #46
Monica Bourgeau
New Phase Business Coaching - Portland, OR
Business Coaching

Jennifer - good point, if you take on too many of those items from your sellers, their property won't sell which only makes the situation worse. It really is better to be very up front with these sellers, even if they don't like the hear the truth.

Sep 14, 2009 03:52 AM #47
Jami Van Den Bogaert
RE/MAX House of Brokers - Springfield, MO

Another great post Jennifer! Will be looking forward to hear whats next as I don't take the kind of Monkey's your writing about but I do handle things for clients that I think sets me apart but is causing me a lot of stress. I also get informed by my husband to stay off the phone or computer of phone but I just can't help it, my business doesn't seem to care if I am on vacation:)

Sep 14, 2009 03:54 PM #48
Patrick Randles
Nova Home Loans - Tucson, AZ


I agree with your post. As the professionals, we set the expectations on what we can and can't get involved in. Unfortunately, I do find myself stressing (and losing sleep) over things I have no control over. How do I get some therapy? Great little series. I can see agents discussing these items with their clients so that everything is "on the table."


Sep 22, 2009 03:27 AM #49
Blake Farley
Real Living Hacienda Realty - Silver City, NM

Just read your post on this.  Do you have a book solely on this subject?  I'm faced with making a decision about this exact thing this morning.

Sep 23, 2010 04:52 AM #50
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Nope, no book! But there are five or six blogs in the series!!!

Feel free to write me directly with your situation - maybe I can help!

Sep 23, 2010 05:07 AM #51
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