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I can recall when I first started working disputed files after Hurricane Wilma. I had no training besides adjusting, and I had barely reached 500 claims under my belt. I can tell you that if there was a mistake to be made in negotiating disputed property claims, I made it. It wasn’t long before my supervisor “reassigned” me to the office to gain some much-needed training. But lessons like that – as difficult as they were – are things that I now look back on with a positive outlook. People often ask me what they should do to become better in our field. Well, to be frank, that is relative and striving to be better is something all professionals should determine for themselves. What I can say is I do know what not to do.  Here are three things new appraisers shouldn’t do.

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  

I cannot tell you how many times I have had a verbal agreement with an individual during a meeting, but later would receive an unsolicited email reminding me of what the individual did not agree to, referencing that very thing we agreed upon. This is called track-covering. We all make mistakes, but if we do make a mistake, the worst thing we can do is pretend that they did not happen. This risks more litigation and inhibits communication. A professional owns their mistakes, and keeps their word. And when someone does make a mistake, we must remember that we are humans, which is our next topic. 

2. Don’t forget we are humans first. 

All too often negotiators are so laser focused upon their target goal, that they forget the most important element – the human element. I admit, I have written an email or said something in a phone call, upon which I look back and want a mulligan realizing that I came across arrogant, which distracted away from the point. In my experience, it is important to find a balance in the communicative tone when in a negotiation: People tend to react or respond to callous behavior with resistance, and patronizing words with dismissiveness. Somewhere in the middle is the balance between the two that both earns respect but holds common courtesies paramount.  

3. Don’t send a charged email if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (or under the influence).  

This speaks for itself. Emails & texts are like tattoos on our careers. Before you send them, make sure you like them. I have a sticker over my laptop that says: “Respond, not react” as a reminder. On rare occasions, negotiations can trigger emotional outbursts. I have heard horror stories of very respected colleagues who have had to answer exceedingly difficult questions under oath about belligerent emails written in anger. Anger, of course, is a natural emotion in response to harm, and there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. What is inappropriate in negotiations is regretful aggression directed towards the party who we feel harmed us – especially if we put it in writing. If we are hungry, or tired or angry, our inhibitions may be lowered, and our judgment might be skewed. What to do? Sleep on it. Talk it out a trusted colleague and gain some objectivity and then respond in a way that your future self will be proud of. 

Things New Appraisers Shouldn’t Do

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