Moving Beyond “The Doctor Realtor-Knows-Best Model”

Unlike doctors, Realtors don’t deal in life-and-death consequences (thankfully).

being_mortalBut, their relationship to clients — and arguably, every professional’s relationship to their less knowledgable customer — parallels the three types of doctor-patient relationships outlined in Dr. Atul Gawande’s wise and sensitive book, “Being Mortal.”

“Red Pills and Blue Pills”

According to Gawande, the traditional model is “paternalistic”:

“Doctors are the medical authorities aiming to ensure that patients receive what the doctor believes is best for them.  The doctor has the knowledge and experience.  The doctor makes the critical choices.  If there were a red pill and a blue pill, the doctor would tell you, ‘Take the red pill.  It will be good for you.'”

red_blueBy contrast, the “informative model” is about providing information, and is non-directive:

“The doctor tells you the facts and figures.  The rest is up to you.  “Here’s what the red pill does, and here’s what the blue pill does,” the doctor would say.  “Which one do you want?”  It’s a retail relationship.  The doctor is the technical expert.  The patient is the consumer.  The job of the doctor is to supply up-to-date knowledge and skills.  The job of the patients is to supply the decisions.”

Not surprisingly, the third, most satisfying model — called “Interpretive” or “shared decison-making” — goes beyond the other two:

“The doctor’s role is to help patients determine what they want.  Interpretive doctors ask, “What is most important to you?  What are your worries?”  Then, when they know your answers, they tell you about the red pill and blue pill and which one would most help you achieve your priorities.”

The only catch, at least for doctors operating in an insurance-driven, time-strapped world?

Playing an interpretive role well requires that they know their client, which in turn requires that they spend more time with them.

(Note: substitute “Realtor” for “doctor” and “client” for “patient,” and you have a terrific blueprint for constructively working with an agent in today’s high-tech, consumer-enabled economy (ditto substituting “Architect,” “Lawyer,” “CPA,” “Financial advisor,” etc.).

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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