Poor Cliff - my husband didn't know that when he proposed to me, I would eventually be taking our marriage public and chiding him on all manner of topics - virtually on a weekly basis. (For better or worse?) In spite of my good-natured ribbing, Cliff's ego and his sense of humor remain, remarkably intact. Call it grace, call it confidence, it is more likely, that his sanity results from just plain ignorance. (My husband rarely reads my musings and that's a very good thing for both of us!)
Having made Cliff the scapegoat so often, I am now going to balance the scales ever so slightly and brag about my extremely gifted mate for a change of pace. Cliff is headed to the Supreme Court of the United States next week for an oral argument. Yes, THE Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (the BIG Kahuna). This isn't his first time there and I suspect it won't be his last, given the nature of his law practice, but it is the first time our son Tristan, will accompany us to see his dad argue on such a grand scale (our disagreements about household chores notwithstanding). I am supremely proud!
Anyone who knows my husband well, won't be surprised that Cliff is exceptionally adept at advocating a point of view, but this easy effortlessness doesn't come without heavy preparation (it's neither easy, nor effortless). He would be the first one to admit that his impromptu responses are usually honed and practiced for weeks and months in advance.
In fact, last week he flew to the east coast for a set of mock trials designed to anticipate any and every question the Justices might throw at him when it counts. (There are no 'soft balls' when it comes to the Supreme Court; those exalted few have earned their glorified robes with heavy artillery.) The stakes in Cliff's cases, are quite literally, life and death so anticipating and understanding every possibility is not only necessary, it's critical to the success and to the outcome of the case.
Thankfully, Real Estate isn't life and death (although it can feel like it in the moment) but the stakes are HUGE, good preparation is important and anticipation is critical to a successful outcome. Make no mistake, buying or selling a home can be a battlefield, to be sure.
Be that as it may, the best arguments, my husband might suggest, are the ones that never need to be made in the first place. As professionally fulfilling as it might be to argue a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Cliff has already won this case in the Ninth Circuit Court below. Having to reaffirm the win in a higher court can potentially result in a reversal, which isn't good news for the clients. Thus, arguing with nine Supreme Court justices is delicate business, indeed!
In truth, arguing with anyone is delicate business and rarely ever productive. Whether it's over a price, the value of a property, or the timing, in my experience, heated arguments are rarely a winning recipe. Arguing with your clients, your Broker, or another agent, is likewise, a lose/lose proposition. Being "right" for the sake of being "right" (even when you ARE right) isn't helpful either and typically sends even well-intentioned negotiations sideways. Let's face it, buying or selling a home is emotional enough without fanning the flames of the fire.
Of course, it isn't always possible to avoid an argument when working through the finer points of a deal. After all, the buyer and the seller are in a natural conflict from the start. The buyer wants to pay less and the seller wants more (go figure. Of course they do!) These opposing positions are frequently going to create inherent conflict and tension. (It's an interesting dance to say the least.) However, conflict doesn't give any of us a license to misbehave.
Still, it's reassuring to remember that both sides of every home purchase seek common ground - transfer of ownership - which should bridge any reasonable divide between opposing sides (the operative word here is "reasonable.") Achieving that goal - with the absence of malice - is always the most prudent course of action (play nice!).
So with respect to Real Estate (and life), be principled, be reasonable, be fair and avoid arguments at all costs (you never know when your paths may cross again). Whether or not you ultimately achieve the grand prize of home ownership (winner, winner, chicken dinner!) you are very likely to have a much smoother journey along the way. Instead of an adversarial stance, shoot for supreme justice!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.