I’m not an idiot; I just don’t understand you!

Home Stager with Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC

 I’m not an idiot; I just don’t understand You!

This weekend I got a call from a gentleman with a very thick accent. After a 15 minute call this all I got: He saw my NJ Staging and Redesign website and wanted to know more about my services and pricing (which is on my website, lol). I had to ask him 3-4 times if he was interested in Home Staging or Interior Redesign.

I couldn’t understand 70% of what he said! He was becoming frustrated like I was an idiot, because I’d ask him the same question 3-4 times still not understanding what he was asking! At one point he even said, “Maybe you’re not the right person to call.” At least I think that’s what he said, but I wasn’t even sure of that.

I realized this was going nowhere and thought about giving up…but that’s just not in my nature. Then it occurred to me that the only way to salvage a potential job was to ask him for his email. That took almost 5 minutes because he rattled it off so quickly in his thick accent. I finally asked him “B as in boy, sir?” Then he proceeded to give me each letter with a word so I could understand. Hallelujah - I now at least had his email!

I emailed him my information, website and asked all the questions I couldn’t understand during our agonizing phone call! He responded to my email and not only does he want to Redesign 4 rooms (family, living, master bedroom and dining room), he has a sizable budget, really likes my work, and is eager to start!  

We set up a consultation in two weeks (my first availability) and I only hope that I can better understand him in person. In the meantime, I’m gathering as much information as possible via email so I don’t look like an idiot….again!  

Has this happened to you? If so what how do you handle a call from a potential client with a very thick accent or doesn’t have complete command over the English language?  

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Elite Staging and Redesign - Kristine Ginsberg - 201 602 2562


Home Staging Morris County - Staged to Sell, Designed to Live!

You have 90 seconds to make a great first impression once your home goes on the market. Consult a Morris County professional home stager serving Union, Essex, Sussex Counties for that competitive edge so your home stands out from the competition, selling faster and for top dollar!  

Elite Staging and Redesign offers home staging services to North Jersey homeowners, real estate agents, banks, builders, and investors in preparing homes to stand out in today’s real estate market. For a consultation on vacant staging, lived in homes or interior redesign projects call Elite Staging and Redesign at 201-602-2562.

Morris County Home Staging Website: Elite Staging and Redesign

Morris County Staging: Portfolio

Email: Kris@elitestagingandredesign.com




Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Marcus Rice, Richmond Virginia 07/26/2012 08:52 PM
  2. Pete Xavier 07/27/2012 08:49 PM
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Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
Your agent under the sun

As English is not my mother tongue, I sometimes have difficulty understanding people over the phone. I always ask for email as you did (and do prefer to communicate that way). I also try to get a face to face appointment...

Jul 17, 2012 07:07 AM #127
Linda Zimmer
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Morgan Hill, CA
Coldwell Banker

Hi Kristine,

Getting a potential client's email is always a good idea - as you said you can send him more of your information. Communication is often challenging - either accents, a bad cell connection, noise in the background, a simple misunderstanding, or even one person forgetting what the other had said or agreed to. Putting things in writing is a good addition to conversation.

Jul 17, 2012 07:12 AM #128
Paddy Deighan JD PhD
TimeshareLawyers.pro - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

patience is a virtue!! Good for you that you hung in there with him and now yo uahve a great new client!!

Jul 17, 2012 07:19 AM #129
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I have had this happen several times, so I just conference in an interpretor after  I discover what language they speak but great for you to communicate with him to get started, but how will you close him to his complete satisfaction with communication issues?

Jul 17, 2012 08:40 AM #130
Ric Mills
Keller Williams Southern Az - Tucson, AZ
Integrity, Honesty, and Vast Real Estate Knowledge

I get this everyday.  I too have gone to the email or texting mode so we con get to the meat of the conversation.  Iam also hearing impaired and wear hearing aids so it can make it very difficult with heavy accents and cell phones.  You have to be patient and spell everything phonetically.  Great patience really helps.

Jul 17, 2012 09:22 AM #131
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Kristine:  It happens SO MUCH I often wonder if my hearing is going bad! They get mad because they can't speak english or I can't understand.  In my CraigsList ads I specifically write only send emails - forget about phone calls.  I'm glad it isn't only me having problems.  Often times in person, there are no problems understanding each other but definately not over the phone.

Jul 17, 2012 10:00 AM #132
Barbara Le Pine
Advantage Real Estate, serving Lincoln County - Newport, OR
Your agent for the Central Oregon Coast!

I had a chinese buyer who was impossible to understand over the phone, only slightly better in person. I did my entire transaction via email, he was my favorite and most fun client of all time. I would listen to him even though I was not understanding one word. I would answer a long string of intelligible sentences with, "Please send me an email to follow up this phone call." It worked beautifully.

Jul 17, 2012 10:24 AM #133
Marti Steele Kilby, CRS
Steele Group Realty - La Mesa, CA
Broker/Owner, San Diego, CA

Kristine - I lived in both France and Germany for 18 months....French was my second language, and German my third.  I always found communication to be a bit stressful, so I always try to be as patient as possible when faced with the situation now.  Sometimes a translator is money well-spent and can show the client that you are interested in understanding the smallest nuance of his or her discussion.

Jul 17, 2012 10:27 AM #134
Richard Foster
Nevada Perfect Homes - Henderson, NV

I am sorry, this issue has ZERO to do with race or culture. . . This is The United States of America. . . Not Mexico, Germany, or China. . . Our language is English, anyone that can't or WON'T learn the language. . PLEASE LEAVE.

I think it is rude as heck to move to a country and refuse to learn to communicate. If I moved to Mexico, I would learn Spanish, Germany, I would learn German, and China, I would learn to Chinese.

Jul 17, 2012 10:45 AM #135
Agnes Tabor
Premiere Plus Realty Co - Naples, FL
REALTOR - Premiere Plus Realty


Sounds like your patience will pay off. I have been working with a gentleman from Sweden and find that it is not only understanding what they are saying but also that different phrases have different meanings. We have come to  understand each other even with the language barrier. Patience is definately the solution.

Good Luck to you.

Jul 17, 2012 11:12 AM #136
Kathy Sheehan
Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021 - Atlanta, GA
Senior Loan Officer

I actually had one of those calls today.  We have a face to face meeting set up so we will see how that goes!!!

Jul 17, 2012 11:21 AM #137
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad


I think you handled this in the best possible way. Written communication can often help, as you found, and I have seen repeatedly that being face to face can help overcome the challenges of communication on the phone, sometime weven with those whose primary language is English.


Jul 17, 2012 12:42 PM #138
Peter Michelbach
International, IT
i Sell Real Estate

Hi Kristine -- I too have a heavy accent -- from my German folks originally from Eastern Europe, I speak fluent Geman, English, Romanian, Hungarian and understand Jiddish -- however my English teacher was a Russian lady and my beautiful wife is Hungarian; so there's some paprika, nostalgia, analytics and warmt in my voice...lol... a lot of clients just loved my style - so I was told, and my career success demonstrarted that -, but, as soon as I've embraced the more 'correct' English pronunciation, I lost my authenticity...

In regard to clients from different cultures and heavy accents, as a helpful strategy I pointed out of having a hearing problem, and asked them politely to speak slow so that I could understand, (also gave me additional time to link into their parameters) ... and the 'faulty' onus was on me ...often I used sketching, and carried a big scrap book with me... hey we got some meschuggene drawings, but at the end, it was fun, the ice cleared, and  trust established. Seldom I used translators. Thank you for sharing.

PS -- On the other hand I feel immediately if there's some nuances of rejection because of my dialect and consequent cultural background, and if those parameters are validated during the next 'interviewing' stages, I just walk away. Thank you alot for sharing.

Jul 17, 2012 01:45 PM #139
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

I can sympathize with you. I do also get those sort of calls. Emails do work best, and in person you can look at their lips and get a better idea as to what they are saying.

Jul 17, 2012 02:20 PM #140
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I have some hearing problems and really prefer to deal through e-mail.  However, I also understand a phone call with a prospect is a higher level of commitment.

Jul 17, 2012 02:24 PM #141
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas


This kind of thing happens to me all the time as well.  Great job on how you handled it and congratulations!  Your tenacity showed it bennefit!

Jul 17, 2012 04:19 PM #142
Deborah Bracco
Robert Defalco Realty - Staten Island, NY
NYS Licensed Realtor, Staten Island New York Home

This just happened to me last week. I was in the car driving while trying to understand what my potential client was saying, and, yes , we had to do the "b" like in boy, etc. etc., Good news, it was much easier in person  and there was still unclear moments  but you start to  learn how to read lips!!!

Jul 18, 2012 03:15 AM #143
Debbie Cook
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc - Silver Spring, MD
Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate

Yes, This has happened to me before.  I've learned to be VERY Patient with people over the years.  If it had been 5 years into my career, I would have probably just given up.  I found that when I first got started I had the patience of Job and it paid off.  Now that I'm older and wiser I find myself as patient as I was as a Newbie.

Jul 18, 2012 09:01 AM #144
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Kristine- can't believe I missed this one.  Big congrats on the Feature.  I've had 2 or 3 clients that were out of town and we communicated strictly via email.  However, I think when you're face to face with your client, it will be a little easier for you to understand.  You are so patient and understanding I know you'll be able to handle it. 

Jul 18, 2012 01:31 PM #145
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

I have also had this occur. I did the same thing you did. Took the person's email. It definitely was the right thing to do.

Jul 19, 2012 06:22 AM #146
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