For some, words have meaning

March 2, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

“Words have meaning,” the buyers’ Realtor said, with a touch of the same disbelief in his voice that all of us seated around the conference table were feeling.

Less than an hour earlier, a loan officer had sent an e-mail message giving us all his word and that of his company that the closing would take place as scheduled.

Yet, there we were. The buyers were ready. The sellers were ready. The closers were ready. It seemed that everyone was ready, but once again, we had all been mislead by a person for whom words have no meaning.

We have probably all met someone like this. He is one of those guys who will say whatever he thinks people want to hear.

By the time this deal was over, we were beginning to wonder if he was making stuff up just for he sake of it.

Many people have been brought up to believe that words such as honesty, integrity, professionalism, and trust have meaning.

This is not complicated. In fact, life is simpler if you say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

When you lie to someone, one of the guys in the room observed, it is a sign of disrespect. It is like saying the person you are lying to is stupid. If you respect someone, he continued, you do not lie to them.

I can’t argue with his thinking.

It seems to me that it is the prevaricator, not the person who is being misled, who winds up looking stupid in the end.

In the example above, did this loan officer really imagine that we wouldn’t figure it out? Did he think we wouldn’t notice that the sale was not closing on the date promised, or that his story changed on a daily (or hourly) basis?

This guy conjures up an image of a clown with slicked-back hair and a plaid suit telling unsuspecting buyers that the second-hand car he is trying to unload was owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sundays.

Nobody believes lines like that, but it doesn’t keep some people from using them.

When some people make a commitment, they do whatever it takes to honor that commitment. This is part of the fabric of who they are.

If a slick operator tries to mislead someone, it makes honest people mad. They find it unacceptable.

For these people, words do have meaning.

There are other people though, for whom words have no meaning.

For these people, words are cheap.

They might use words like honesty and trust, but for them, the words are empty.

These people apparently do not care how their behavior affects others.

They might say they are concerned, that they feel bad about the turmoil they create, but their actions do not support their words.

What they are good at is blaming others when things don’t work out.

When describing these people, the expression “slippery as a snake in wet grass” springs to mind, but that comparison would be a disservice to serpents.

We all make mistakes. When that happens, we need to stand up and accept responsibility.

Other times, we are faced with unforeseen obstacles, or situations beyond our control.

If we comport ourselves as professionals and are honest about the facts, no matter how unpopular they may be, we can get through any situation, and all of the participants will have the opportunity to make the best decisions possible based on accurate information.

Most people understand that problems arise, but they don’t understand being lied to.

Giving people false hope by misleading them with half-truths or flat-out lies does not solve any problems, and that was the most troubling thing about this sale.

It was sad to watch how this real estate transaction affected all of those involved.

The buyers are a young couple whose excitement about buying their first home was tainted by the process.

More than three weeks after the original closing date, and three months after the purchase agreement was signed, we were still in limbo.

We all experienced hardships as a result of the way this transaction was handled, or rather, mis-handled.

We all made it clear that what we needed were honest answers, not fairy tales, but unfortunately, to the person who most needed to hear that message, words had no meaning.

A person might call himself a sheriff, but if he does not conduct himself with honesty and professionalism, one wonders if he isn’t more likely to be pursued by a posse, rather than in charge of it.