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Don’t Kick the Ref in the Head

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Controlling Your Frustration

Today I was watching the Olympics and saw the clip of the Cuban, Angel Valodia Matos kicking a referee, out of frustration and then getting ejected from the Olympic games – for life.  In the 2000 Olympics Matos was the gold medal winner.  From winner to loser in one bad decision…  The news broadcaster actually said “Everyone knows the first rule of taekwondo is that you don’t kick the ref in the head.”

So, what is your reaction to conflict?  How do you respond to authority when you are faced with the potential for correction?

I’ve served for the past couple of years on Professional Standards work groups and recently as a staff person, I’ve been attending hearings at other boards.  I’ve seen first hand how agents who can’t control themselves make bad situations worse.

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It Doesn’t Matter How Good You Are

Unfortunately it’s a truth that the more business you do, the more you increase your chance for a complaint or lawsuit from a consumer, another practitioner or both.  You don’t have to do something wrong, someone just needs to think you did.

I’ve seen good agents make simple mistakes, and that ommission maybe the basis to take the agent to task.  The problem is that the better the agent, the more indignant they are when a complaint is filed at the Real Estate Commission, the Realtor Association or in a court.  That indignation tends to make a winnable situation – un-winnable.

Remember These Simple Rules

There are a few simply things that agents who are under fire need to remember:

  • First the complainant maybe wrong, but treating them with anything other than respect will simply lend credibility to how you may have treated them and led to the complaint.  Keeping a professional demeanor at all times, will show your ultimate professionalism and lend itself to questioning the validity of the complainant.
  • ALWAYS show respect to the panel and other professional involved.  You are going to be working toward convincing attorneys, judges, professional standards panels and even the complainant that you were not possibly capable of wrong-doing.
  • Document, Document, Document. The more evidence and witnesses you can bring with you, the stronger your case.
  • Be very conscious of your body language.  Be interested and involved in the hearing.  Too many times, I’ve seen the body language of the respondent be one of disdain for the court or the review panels.  That evident disdain has been the foundation for a lot of decisions against the respondent.
  • Be prepared.  Have your thoughts, documents and witnesses in line.
  • Stick to facts and not feelings.  No one cares why you did something wrong, in most cases.  Explaining your feelings, leads people to think that you’re justifying actions you knew to be wrong.
  • Don’t “confess” to doing something else wrong.  A lot of folks are tempted to say “Well, I did so and so and the complainant didn’t even bring that up”  This simply doesn’t help.

There are countless other rules and things you need to be prepared for, but these are the points I see MOST violated.  I’ve sat in courtrooms, Professional Standard meetings and other review panels over various careers.  There have been countless times when people could have limited their discipline or avoiding a finding of a violation, simply by behaving as a professional would.

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Russell Shaw

    August 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Wonderful advice, wonderful post, Matthew. And, “Everyone knows the first rule of taekwondo is that you don’t kick the ref in the head” was LOL funny.

  2. Ken Brand

    August 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Nice reminder. It seems the heated pressure of athletics burns away the veneer, what you see is bullying , whining, excuses, finger pointing, pouting, anger, bragging, etc. Of course you see grace, humility, joy and appreciation as well. What ever the display, you can bet it’s the real deal, veneer free.

    Always interesting how people act different when there’s $$$$ on the table too.


  3. Glenn fm Naples

    August 24, 2008 at 8:32 am

    At times we all are guilty of letting our emotions overtake our logical and rational thinking. However, I do remember one of the great professional basketball coaches by the name of Red Auerbach, who on occasion did get himself thrown out of games for agruing or harassing the referees. 🙂

  4. Linsey

    September 8, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    This one will be printed and passed out for my agents. Great tips, great advice.

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