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| 6 minute read

3 Principles of Building Meaningful Real Estate Client Relationships

Sammy Harper Mar 31, 22

The Art of Perspective-Taking

In Daniel Pink's bestselling book, To Sell Is Human, he talks about the importance of "perspective-taking."

Also called "attunement," it's the ability to see things from another person's point of view, get in synch with them, and adjust as necessary—and it's one of the core components of selling.

Whether you're selling a home or selling yourself, you need to be able to get inside your client's head and understand everything they're thinking and feeling. This strategy of perspective-taking gives you insight into the problems you can anticipate and solve for your clients. It helps you dig deeper into their wants and needs. And it sets the foundation for a relationship that will last long after closing.


So how do you master this skill? Pink says "effective perspective-taking...hinges on three principles": increasing your power by reducing it, using your head as much as your heart, and practicing subtle mimicry.

1) Reduce your power

Research has shown that a person with a greater sense of authority won't be as skilled at seeing someone else's point of view. The less power we have, the better we are at tuning in to another person's perspective.

Why does power hurt our perspective-taking ability? One study, cited in Pink's book, found that people with higher levels of power "anchor too heavily on their own vantage point." Those with power are more likely to make assumptions based on their own experiences, rather than considering things from the other person' point of view.

That's why Pink advises that you "start your encounters with the assumption that you're in a position with lower power. That will help you see the other side's perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you move them."

Pink includes a remark by researcher Dacher Keltner: When you go in assuming that you know nothing, "you're going to be more attuned to the context around you." You're going to listen to every word your client speaks, and you're going to pay attention to their tone of voice and body language. You'll pick up on the nuances you might have otherwise missed.

"The ability to move people now depends on power's inverse: understanding another person's perspective, getting inside his head, and seeing the world through his eyes."
- Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human

2) Don't confuse it with empathy.

The second principle of perspective-taking is understanding how it differs from empathy.

A study on the two defined perspective-taking as "the cognitive capacity to consider the world from another individual's viewpoint." It's more about thinking.

Empathy, on the other hand, is about feeling—the ability to feel someone else's pain or "connect emotionally with another individual."

Empathy, while an important skill in forming relationships, can sometimes be detrimental to your success. You can't allow yourself to succumb to the same level of panic or despair that your clients might feel after they lose their third bidding war. You have to see things from their perspective—get into their heads—but you can't let their emotions overpower your own steadfast professionalism. 

Perspective-taking is the more effective strategy for moving people—for getting them to choose you as their real estate agent, for anticipating their challenges and understanding their needs, and for providing a great client experience now and forever.

3) Mimic strategically

Mimicking other people—their tone of voice, body language, speech patterns, etc.—is something we all do naturally and subconsciously. It's built into our brains. It's the way our ancestors—the very earliest humans—established trust and understanding when they came across new groups of people.

Researchers have dubbed this phenomenon the chameleon effect—"a subconscious behavior in which people tend to emulate the mannerisms of those they interact with." 

In an article for Verywell Mind, contributor Toketemu Ohwovoriole explains, "Researchers believe we do it because it has the potential to positively influence our social interactions with others. When you mirror the behavior of a person close to you, the person whose behavior is being mirrored notices it and this causes positive feelings toward you."

"When you mimic a person, they see you as someone who understands the world in the same way they do. This makes you more relatable and easier to communicate with."
- Toketemu Ohwovoriole, What Is The Chameleon Effect?

While much of perspective-taking is cognitive, Pink notes, mimicry is the physical component. We can become more attuned to another person simply by mirroring their behavior. Here's one study he includes in his book:

"In a French study of retail salespeople, half of the store clerks were instructed to mimic the expressions and nonverbal behavior of their customers and half were not. When customers approached the salespeople for help, nearly 79 percent bought from mimickers compared with about 62 percent from non-mimickers. In addition, those who dealt with the mimickers reported 'more positive evaluations of both the sales clerk and the store.'"

So the next time you sit down with a prospective client, make an intentional effort to match their posture, the words they use, whether they're quick to laugh or tight-lipped. After a few minutes of strategic mimicry, let it slip from your mind. You'll keep mirroring the other person, whether you realize it or not. Letting it come naturally is what makes it most effective.

Hone Your Perspective-Taking Skills

In real estate, relationships are everything. And you'll foster deeper, more meaningful relationships if you are able to really get inside the heads and hearts of your clients. On Daniel Pink's website, he shares one of his favorite exercises for improving perspective-taking, borrowed from Amazon's Jeff Bezos: at every business meeting, pull up an empty chair. This empty chair represents the client and reminds everyone on your team that the client is the most important person in the room. Give it a try at your next team meeting!

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About Sammy Harper

Sammy Harper is a content writer at Firepoint & Realvolve. Her nine years of digital marketing experience include SEO, email marketing, social media, and blogging. Fascinated by the real estate indust...

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