FEATHERS IN THE WIND
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, originally written 8/16/2006 revised 12/26/2019
Anything in BLUE is a linkable entry
I originally wrote this Nugget in 2006. Why have I revised it in 2019? Over the Christmas holidays someone said something to me that in the moment really upset me. The comment could never be justified or explained away. Some 24 hours later I find myself still thinking of the situation that created the comment to be made and what was said. It hurt. Even worse, there were a lot of people who heard the comment; that hurt as well. Today I realized I needed to take some of my own advice originally written in 2006.
This is what I wrote in 2006. Yesterday I received a telephone call from a woman I had never met who immediately, from her very first word on her call, began to shout at me and within the first two or three outbursts called me a racist. Let me repeat – I had never met her, I did not know her race, religion, or even why she was calling me – yet I had been labeled a racist.
In brief, she was a buyer of real estate and she was represented by a broker from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, approximately 90 miles from our market area. One of my associates had a property listed that this lady apparently wanted to buy and which the seller had agreed to sell to her. As part of the negotiations, a buyer creates a list of discrepancies that the buyer would like for the seller to address. The seller agreed to fix some but not all of the discrepancies on the list and the BUYER REJECTED the seller’s response. Therefore, the seller requested and received a cancellation agreement signed by the buyer. This situation happens in real estate more often than one would imagine and until this moment was certainly not unusual. The buyer then recanted her rejection and said she wanted the house and the seller refused to sell it to her. Race was never an issue by anyone involved in the sale.
Then came the irate telephone call. The caller shouted throughout the entire call and would not give me a chance to say more than a very few words at a time but none of my words constituted a complete sentence or thought. In her mind my agent and I were guilty of racism. This Nugget is NOT about the failed real estate transaction or what could have been done differently – that is not the issue. The issue is in the name calling.
We have all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!” But is that true? Anyone who thinks that is a true statement ought to read Bob Burg and Lori Palainik’s book, Gossip. And when you do, don’t skip over “What People Are Saying About Gossip” at the beginning of the book (shameless plug). Bob suggests in his book that words can be just as deadly as any physical weapon that a person can use. It was words that caused one soccer player in the world championships to head-butt another player because of what he had apparently said.
The following is an excerpt from Gossip:
A nineteenth-century folktale tells about a man who went about slandering the town’s wise man. One day, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, scatter the feathers to the wind and return when done to the wise man’s house.
Though puzzled by this strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers and returned to the house.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.
“Just one more thing,” the wise man said. “Go now and gather up all the feathers.”
“But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them.”
“Precisely,” he answered. “And it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover all the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak.”
It is a belief of mine that if you were to handle a situation perfectly, you would be lucky if your customer would tell 5 other people about how well you performed. Yet if the customer perceives that you failed to properly handle a situation correctly, they will most likely tell everyone they talk to. Being called a racist is probably one of the worst labels one can put on another person along with child molester, sexual predator or spouse abuser. These labels are bandied about without proof yet they tend to “stick” upon the individual(s) so labeled. At this point, as in the case of the story above, the truth has little to do with the label.
Yes, we get angry when such things occur. In the situation above with the telephone call, I instantly remembered a conversation I had with a former broker of mine Diane Romano, who said that when you find yourself in an adversarial situation and one party is angry, take a deep breath, gather your thoughts BEFORE you speak and then when you speak, speak more softly and slowly that you otherwise would. It tends to calm the other person down and they have to strain to hear what you are saying meaning they can not be talking at the same time. In this situation I in fact remained very calm (surprisingly) and tried to calm the caller down but to no avail. She refused to let me speak; she continued to spew one accusation after another at me. The label “racist” came through loud and clear. Without giving her any reason to do so, she hung up – it was definitely a one-sided conversation from the very beginning.
These things are obvious! There are times, however, when such labels are not so obvious but can be just as deadly. Surprise – they come from our own mouths! Well “mouths” may not be technically correct – rather they come from our minds in the form of self-talk. Our own talk can be just as deadly as someone calling us a racist. After all, when we talk to ourselves, who is listening? We are. When we tell ourselves something is impossible, we find ways to make our beliefs come true.
I truly feel sorry for anyone who does not play golf. In golf, self-talk is what the game is all about. As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, either way, you’re right!” In golf this is 90% of the game. If you think you will hit the ball into the water, you probably will. If you don’t, you think you were just lucky. If you think you can make the putt, you probably will. If you think you are going to lose, you probably will.
It is the same in life and business. Whatever you think you can or cannot do, you will or will not do it. People can call me a racist as often as they like, but in my mind, I know I am not; therefore, I don’t worry about it. If a lot of people called me a racist, I would then have to take a look at my language and actions and ask others how they perceive me to be. But one angry person in over 27 years does not make me a racist. That, however, was just ONE label. How many labels do you put on yourself and how often to you reinforce them? Think about it and ask yourself if you have ever said any of these things to yourself, outwardly or inwardly:
- Why bother, I never win anything.
- They will never want to work with me; I’m new in the business.
- Why would they want to work with me, they can buy me 10 times over
- My input is not important, just sit here (in this class) and shut up
- I can’t do that
- That will never work in our market; our market is different (one of my favorites I oftentimes heard)
- The buyer will never accept this
- The seller will never accept this
- Buyers are liars
- Sellers are liars
- The boss will never go for this
- It’s not in the budget so why bring it up
- I know smoking is very hazardous to not only my health but everyone’s around me but I CAN’T QUIT!
- I can handle all this alcohol
- I had a few drinks but I can handle this car Okay
- My wife will never know
- My husband will never know
- I don’t need any help
- If I ask for help, I will be perceived as being weak
- No one would ever want to read my book I’m writing
- I will be considered strange if I write a poem
- If I get good grades in high school, I will be considered a nerd
Let’s get back to being called a racist. Terry Cole-Whittaker wrote one of the most beneficial books I have ever read – What You Think of Me Is None of My Business. The title says it all. What that irate lady thought of me really is none of my business. If she files a complaint, I know I will be cleared so why worry? Ms. Cole-Whittaker ought to write a book entitled “What I Think of Me Is Entirely My Business.” Or, maybe I should write it. Another phrase that comes in handy during times like this is: “You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Eleanor Roosevelt; brilliant! But having said that, everyone needs to worry about what your internal-self is thinking and saying about you because that is what is going to control your outcomes. “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, either way you are right!” That’s scary when you consider how much negative self-talk we engage in every day.
A perfect example of this lies in writing this Nugget. Will people think that I have said the things to myself that I have listed above? Frankly it doesn’t matter what I think you may think, what is important is what I think and therein lies the lesson of this Nugget. Learn to “think in a certain way” (said by Wallace D. Wattles in almost every book he has written) and when a negative thought enters your mind, just say to yourself, “That’s interesting; where did that come from?” and then just let it pass and get back to “thinking in a certain way” ala Wallace D.Wattles.
- Worry less about what others think of you because they think of you very little.
- Realize you are engaging in negative thinking and then just let it go and move on.
- Think “I can!” rather than “I can’t”
- Read Gossip and learn to identify when you are engaging in damaging conversations about yourself and others!