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“Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter.” ~ Mary Oliver

When we listen – intently and with care – we are better agents and better people. I preach this, though I don’t always practice it.

I recently met with an elderly woman to discuss listing her home of 45 years. She was excited to have a visitor. She welcomed me graciously, served me tea, and had many stories to share about her house and its history.

I was tired and wishing I’d scheduled our appointment for earlier in the day. It was a struggle to pay attention. Every now and then, I’d attempt to pull her back to the “purpose” of our meeting so we could get on with it and I could go home.

Not only did she have lots of stories, but the stories echoed the stories I’ve heard from other sellers over the years. Work as a Realtor long enough, and the narratives – with certain variations – get repeated over and over again.

As she talked, I was thinking, “Oh, here’s THAT story I’ve heard 8 million times already about how the window only leaked that one time in a big rain.” Or “Oh, yes, it’s going to be so difficult for your grown kids who live in Spokane to say goodbye to the house.” Or “I know exactly how to reply to this bit about the neighbor’s friends who 3 years ago expressed an interest in buying the house.”

But then I caught myself. Sure, I was paying attention. But I wasn’t ATTENDING with empathy or interest. So, I corrected course, and began trying to feel into what she was saying. I tried to identify with her past, present and future. I took her words into my heart, not just my head.

Result? I instantly felt closer to her. I left not only with a listing agreement, but with a simmering gratitude for having a real estate practice that creates true intimacy and connection with others. My adjusted attitude made for a much more rewarding two hours.

Next time you are struggling to connect with a client, you might check to see if you’re bringing some empathy and feeling to your “attending.” That refined focus may enhance your experience in rewarding and surprising ways.

Photo Credit: Matt Bennett

Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.