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Realtor Safety: Reading the Prospect

September 28 2015

This month, we're publishing content from a course on Realtor Safety. This is the eleventh in a series of articles that teaches Realtors how to prevent being a victim of crime. Read the previous article here.

mobile man walking corridorA few of the most useful tools you have to keep yourself safe are your ability to read the prospect's body language, para-verbal communication, and verbal communication. Body language enompasses their body position relative to you, facial expressions, eye movements, hand position, etc. Para-verbal communication is all the parts of speech that are not the words themselves, such as tone, cadence (speed), and volume.

When reading the following, it is important to keep a few things in mind:

  • If a prospect is meeting you for the purpose of harming you, they will likely look for a place to isolate you so that you are not visible from the outside of the home. If you are following the guidelines, it will be difficult for them to do so and therefore they will become frustrated. Signs of frustration are detectable if you are observant.
  • When someone is preparing for an attack, their adrenal glands will increase the amount of adrenaline in their body. This is also known as the fight/flight reaction. This increase in adrenaline produces observable signs.
  • There is no hard and fast way to determine who is and is not a threat, nor is there a single telltale sign that someone has vio- lent intentions towards you. However, the following are some potential red flags.

Body Language

The following can be indicators of someone who is ill at ease.

  • A prospect continually looking out the window
  • Invasion of body space, particularly uninvited touching (even if seemingly accidental)
  • Lack of eye contact
  • What appears to be intentional positioning between you and the door
  • Hands in the pockets (especially if they are large pockets on a coat)
  • Wearing cool weather clothing in warm weather
  • Look for changes, particularly:
    • Dilated pupils
    • A look as if they are no longer paying attention to what you are saying or the house in general
    • Changes in breathing
    • Changes in facial expression
    • Visible veins in the forehead or neck
    • Wiping hands on pants or shirt, or rubbing hands
    • Fidgeting or repetitive body movements such as scratching, tapping, etc.

Para-verbal Communication

Changes in para-verbal communication can be signals that something has changed in the emotional and physical state of the prospect.

  • Changes in volume when there is no change in the noise level or distance. This will be a subtle, but noticeable change accompanied by other observable changes as well. Frustration is typically associated with elevated volume.
  • Changes in cadence (the speed at which someone speaks). Frustration is typically associated with increased speed
  • Changes in tone. Frustration is typically associated with a sharper tone, clearer diction, and an emphasis on the first syllable of a word.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication that could indicate red flags include:

  • Showing more interest in you than in the house
  • Issuing orders ("Come here" vs. "Please come here and look at this")
  • Asking you to move closer
  • Excessive sharing of personal information
  • Suggestive or "double meaning" language
  • Complimenting you on your looks or an article of clothing in an unprofessional manner
  • Escalating verbal communication from seemingly professional to familiar to intimate

Escalation behaviors

If you identify a pattern of behaviors that seem to indicate that the prospect is attempting to escalate the meeting from a professional encounter to an unprofessional encounter, as if they are "testing the waters" to see how open you will be to an advance AND you notice isolating behaviors such as constantly looking out of windows, you should be particularly wary.

It is worth noting that everyone exhibits the behaviors mentioned in this section at one time or another and each behavior in and of itself does not indicate that an individual is a threat. However, it is the combination of behaviors without a seemingly apparent reason for the changes that should act as a red flag.

Control your emotions

If you begin to feel uncomfortable, it's important that you control your emotions and reactions to them. Reacting calmly and deliberately will ensure you are making safe decisions. The apparent lack of reaction on your part will make the situation less attractive if the prospect intends harm.

Read the next article in this series now: How the Real Estate Community Can Protect Itself

Read More Articles in this Series

September is Realtor® Safety Month. Throughout the month, RE Technology will be publishing excerpts from an educational course on Realtor Safety in partnership with safety app creator Real Safe AgentReal Safe Agent. Here's the list of articles that have been published to date:

Please consider sharing this important information with your colleagues, your agents (brokers), and membership (MLSs and associations)!