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What Emotional Intelligence Tells Us About Our Clients and Ourselves in Challenging Markets

Introduction

The homebuying and homebuilding worlds were rocked when interest rates shot up from historic lows to rates over 7% at one point. This had a large impact on the market and has added stress for buyers and sellers both.

Some buyers were priced out of the market. Others backed out or delayed home purchases over fears of job loss, concerns about price drops, or reluctance to proceed at a higher mortgage rate.

Clients have asked for a deeper understanding of customers’ delayed and canceled purchases. To help us all understand, I’m talking with Joie Seldon, a specialist in emotional intelligence, about what we can do for our buyers and builder teams.

Q&A

ML:

Welcome, Joie. It’s a pleasure to talk with you. First of all, what is “emotional intelligence?”

JS:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be present with your emotions and use the information they bring to make good choices and communicated in ways that are beneficial to everyone. It’s a state of emotional flow that may take only a few seconds, but what is happening is you experience the physical sensations that emotions produce without resistance, know the specific emotion you are feeling, understand what thoughts are sparking the emotion, then make a conscious choice as to what to do about it. Sometimes the action you need to take is to change your thinking.

ML:

What does emotional intelligence tell us about how we respond to market changes like these?

JS:

Buying and selling a house are highly emotional experiences. The stakes are high financially and in terms of one’s quality of life. What gets activated in people is a  fear of the unknown.

Fear of the unknown is directly related to our survival instinct, which is activated on a subconscious level. Most people will recognize that they are anxious or stressed, but not name the feeling as fear nor understand the beneficial function of fear. They interpret the worrisome thoughts and tension they are feeling as indicating a negative outcome.

ML:

So, when people feel fear, they frequently have all the physical sensations of fear, but interpret it as something between danger and a negative outcome?

JS:

Correct. Emotions are an information system. They tell us what our thoughts and beliefs are about whatever it is we are experiencing. They are like a GPS system guiding us to awareness by communicating through body sensations.

Unfortunately, a lot of emotions are labeled as negative. This causes people to assume they are having a negative experience about something because they experiencing a “negative” emotion.

ML:

What can homebuilders do to better work with their prospective buyers now?

JS:

Unless your life is directly threatened, fear’s message is “Pay attention!” So it is normal to have it come up when the stakes are high.

The key for homebuilders is to listen objectively to a client’s fears, not only what they say but what they notice about the client’s state of being and body language. Being fully present with someone, hearing what they say, and responding with empathy and calm promotes a sense of safety in that person.

Helping the other person feel respected and heard goes a long way in alleviating their fear. Helping them feel safe allows for greater access to creative solutions.

This is most effective when you can listen without an agenda. If your intention is to “sell,” people may not consciously be aware of their resistance, but their instinct will be activated. If they feel truly heard and countenanced, they will be more open to suggestions.

ML:

That explains why interviews with lost or delayed buyers can teach us so much. Even when someone loved their sales representative, I’ve learned surprising things because I’m there to ask questions, listen, and probe, rather than sell.

As a result, I can give my clients insights that will improve the sales experience. I’ve even discovered people who were still prospects.

JS:

Yes, you are wise to do that. Our emotional responses are hard-wired, so the fear response is there whether the person is conscious of their emotion or not. I’m not surprised people share more when the interview is designed for them to be heard but not sold. People want to be acknowledged.

ML:

What can homebuilders do to help their teams work with customers now?

JS:

Companies can train their teams in EQ – Emotional Intelligence.

Many people know the term emotional intelligence but do not know how to practice it nor the extent to which it impacts every aspect of life. While compassion and empathy are part of it, it is ultimately about how you function in your daily life, especially in interpersonal interactions.

No decision is ever made without an emotional component. Learning how to stay present with the physical sensations helps to understand what you are feeling and why. Being emotionally fluid when a strong feeling comes up, and having the ability to stay present with it, allows the emotion to move on and a state of equilibrium to be restored. It is empowering because you know that you are in charge of your emotions rather than the emotions being in charge of you.

People are at their highest functioning when they don’t resist feelings but seek to understand and use them.

ML:

Thank you for your advice and for talking with me.

About Joie Seldon:

Emotional intelligence Master Trainer and author of EMOTIONS: An Owner’s Manual, Joie Seldon has taught thousands of professionals how to advance their careers, manage family dramas and fulfill ambitions. Her ability to break down the complex world of emotions into easy-to-understand and actionable concepts and tools brings life-changing results. 

A leadership and professional development coach, Joie Seldon has worked with clients at Wells

Fargo, Blue Shield, AT&T, NASA, Dolby, and many more. As the creator of Emotions at Work EQ

Training, she offers a highly accessible and fun approach to harnessing one of the most underutilized yet powerful resources we have – our emotions. She receives rave reviews as a speaker and media expert. She holds an M.A. in Somatic Counseling Psychology.

About Maureen Ladley:

Having started her career as a strategic marketer, Maureen found herself drawn to consumer research out of both necessity and curiosity. How well do companies really understand their customers? Are we asking the right questions? Ignoring key findings? As the Principal of Ladley & Associates, she has created a consumer research firm that is innovative and disciplined, insightful and results-driven, and tailored to the needs of clients who were once in her position.

Before launching Ladley & Associates, Maureen was the vice president of strategic marketing for Centex, guiding research projects in the west and southwest. She taught sustainable marketing through Boston Architectural College’s Sustainable Design Institute and has been a featured speaker at the Arizona Housing Forum, and for NAHB. Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from UCLA and is certified in qualitative and quantitative research by the Insights Association. Maureen is a member of the Urban Land Institute, and the National Association of Home Builders.

Her clients speak for themselves.

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