Please Don’t Make Clients Feel Stupid!

Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty of California, Inc. CA DRE #01490977

How Not to Make Your Clients

and Others Feel Stupid!!



We often say to buyer and sellers there is no stupid question. That’s likely true. Encouraging our clients to ask anything they want, even if they feel it might be a silly question, is not a bad thing.



But there are times when we might do or say things that make our buyers and sellers feel stupid, probably unwittingly.  Have you ever done this?



We all know what that feels like…when someone says something to us or treats us in a way that makes us feel stupid, insulted, or embarrassed. It might be a customer service rep on the phone, or someone in a retail setting.



Whether intentional or not, it causes an immediate reaction, which might change the tone of the whole conversation, cause us to stop listening, or simply to move on.



Not something you want a buyer or seller to do!



So what might we do that could result in making a client, a vendor, or another agent feel, well, stupid or embarrassed.



It may a subtle nuance in your voice, or a look you give them without realizing it when answering a question. Body language is powerful, and a subtle eye roll, perhaps, or shaking your head, or not having eye contact when speaking with them could negate your attempt to be positive. The tone of your voice might also suggest annoyance at being asked the question.



Ignoring, or not answering, a question might imply it wasn’t worthy of your response. And simply saying “I don’t know” in a dismissive tone, without an offer to get the answer or otherwise help, could send the wrong message.



Realestate-eseUsing a lot of our real estate lingo or jargon is another way to possibly make someone feel uninformed.  



It’s so easy for us to toss out the words and abbreviations we use every day, forgetting that those we are talking with might not have a clue, and then might be embarrassed to ask us what we mean!



Another way to add insult might be the way in which you respond, or even the way you phrase a question.



Do you ever say these things?



We already talked about that, don’t you remember?” Possibly any response with “don’t you remember?” has a subtle negative connotation, or the tone of your voice might imply so.



Why do you want to know?” or “Why do you ask?” at least in the wrong tone, could imply they are asking a dumb question. Like, why in the world would you be asking that?! Certainly understanding the client’s viewpoint has value, but the obvious answer from your perspective may not be so obvious.



And what about the manner in which we respond on an email or a text message?



Without the benefit of our body language and voice tone there is even a greater risk of insulting your client. Indeed, the very fact that you respond via text without being sure that’s ok, or an email, might be insulting since you are making the assumption they want to communicate in the same format as you. It might not be a big deal, but depending on what you say, and how, it could be. How often do we hear, or ask - "didn't you get my message?!"



And how about our use of technology and assumptions we might make about others' use of it!



Not everyone may know what a pdf is or how to create one! Or know about Docusign? Have you ever said…just send me a pdf of your Proof of funds? Or informed a client that you will be sending them paperwork to “docusign?”



Communication in our business is critical, and an important part of building relationships. So don’t make them feel stupid by how you respond, the language you use, or your tone of voice.  Even if they ask questions that make you feel that way!

Comments (73)

Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940

A relaxed voice and body posture whether in person or on the phone is important. When done with text or is harder...but still doable. 

May 11, 2017 11:01 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate Agent Retired

Too many acronyms & not enough english too. Like that pdf as an example.

May 11, 2017 12:15 PM
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

I think emails are the worst offenders. We can come across as testy without meaning it. And it is tempting to say "I told you." We have to stop and think before we speak and write.

May 11, 2017 12:24 PM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Jeff,

I try not to ass-u-me anything & reassure folks that the only dumb question is the one not asked. How else do I know, what they do not? If I were dropped off at NASA, I would not know what all the acronyms mean either. It might take a few minutes to get up to speed ;-).

May 11, 2017 03:17 PM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Great post, advice, and reminders about the subtle nuances that might destroy any opportunities. I attempt to communicate at whatever level the person to whom I am speaking is listening.

May 11, 2017 04:26 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Mona Gersky  - thank you for the compliment. Your analogy is a very good one!

Yes indeed, that "deer in the headlights look" Joe Pryor 

That's an excellent approach James (Jim) Lawson, DBA that no doubt serves you, and your clients, well.


May 11, 2017 04:44 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Michael Jacobs  I see a hint here and there of that sarcastic side of you. Reminds me of myself.

It should always be customers first, Lou Ludwig , right?

And it could happen so easily, especially with someone you don't really know very well Dana Basiliere  Thanks for stopping by!


May 11, 2017 04:47 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

John Wiley  - it happens to us all. Better to stop and think first

Karen Rice  - that's a very insightful comment! I think you have something there!

Melissa Brown  - that's an excellent point. Texts can be so easy to misconstrue. And so often we are moving quickly when writing them rather than thinking carefully about what we are saying. But that's true of others as well!


May 11, 2017 05:17 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Claudia Rydel  I usually remember but there have been some lapses. I think it's an important question and may shed some light on people's styles!

M SQUARE  - I think it normally happens unintentionally!

Abby Stiller  - thank YOU for stopping by. I agree!


May 11, 2017 05:21 PM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County

Very valid points.  We do need to be cautious in the messages we send to others.

May 12, 2017 03:19 AM
Nancy Robinson Ranked #6 in MI
Century 21 Town and Country - Royal Oak, MI
#11 Century21 Realtor in the US, #16 in the World

NICE! Thank you for the kind and gentle reminder. 

May 12, 2017 05:01 AM
Jerry Newman
Brown Realty, 210-789-4216, - San Antonio, TX
Texas REALTOR, San Antonio Military Relocation

Yes, Jeff. Communication Is Key to our success in this business. Think before you respond.

May 12, 2017 06:41 AM
Rose Mary Justice
Synergy Realty Pros - Dandridge, TN
Synergy Realty Pros

Be gentle to your clients.  The way we explain can make a difference.

Yes I have felt stupid before by asking questions and I know how it feels. So don't make the same mistake with clients.  Let them know that you are there for them and if you don't know the answer then research till you find it.

It is important to them or they would not have asked.

Great post by the way.  Thanks

May 12, 2017 06:44 AM
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Broker
Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

And here is a tip that I use all the time, Jeff. When answering a question, if the answer is no, do not start out the email by using the word no. In fact, stay away from negative stuff all together. You can say, hey, interesting question, or I'm so glad you brought that up, and then you can tell them the answer is no.

May 12, 2017 09:19 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Jeff so so true. It's so important to be self aware of how we're communicating - it can be so subtle.

May 12, 2017 02:46 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Kathy Streib  - yep, we hear that one alot.

Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC, GRI, CDPE  - that's so true.

George - I would agree

Bobbalou - sorry to hear that

Joan Whitebook  - thank YOU. So nice to see you again!


May 12, 2017 04:50 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Jeff Dowler ,

So glad to see this post featured! You are so right..there is nothing worse than feeling inferior! No one likes to be made to feel that way through body language, tone of voice or language used to respond. You can't build relationships this way! Proper and nurturing communication is the key to success.

May 13, 2017 04:56 AM
Chris Lima
Atlantic Shores Realty Expertise - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

This is a great reminder for all. I, at times, am guilty of some of these things. I work diligently to improve my communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal. We deal with so many different personalities on a daily basis and it's not always easy to adapt.

May 13, 2017 05:36 AM
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

Jeff, because we do this all the time things seem obvious to us and easy.  We need to remember that buyers and sellers do this often only once or twice or a handful of times.  I remember the first time I was closing on a house when I was a newbie I could  not understand the final settlement statement and the credit/debits for prepaids.  Easy stuff here, but I hadn't bought my own home yet and it was my first closing.  My escrow officer graciously explained it all to me, and I always try to remember that particular time when buyers and sellers ask questions that seem obvious and easy.  They aren't.  Great post. -Kasey

May 13, 2017 08:33 AM
Marc St Martin
United Real Estate Infinity - Cape Coral, FL
Your friend in the business!

It is simply a matter of respect for others.  My wife, Annie, also a Realtor® and I have been blessed with good manners and a deep respect for others. You've probably heard this one but it is our mantra..."People may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel!"


May 20, 2017 02:01 PM