What To Say Now: Episode 4 - Race, Murder,
and Conversations. Oh My!

Prefer the Podcast version? Here you go! 

Show Notes and Links:

What To Say Now Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/whattosaynow
Banksy The Street Artist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksy
Rob Hahn's Website "The Notorious ROB" - https://notorious-rob.com/
Rob Hahn's article about Race - https://notorious-rob.com/2020/06/is-the-real-estate-industry-serious-about-race/

Full Show Transcript:

Dan Stewart: Hi everybody. It's me, Dan Stewart from Happy Grasshopper. And with me, I have Mr Brian Rayl, say hi, Brian.

Brian Rayl: Hello.

Dan Stewart: And Maya Paveza here. So today we are really excited because this is the fourth episode, number four of our web series, What To Say Now. Now we've created this web series because we believe that conversation is the cure for everything that's wrong in the world and wouldn't you know, it we have a lot to talk about today. And we have had such a crazy time of turmoil over the past week or so, we've seen an innocent man killed wrongly by police and we've seen what polarization this is produced around the country. So rather than try to just stay on the sidelines and let that do what it does, we're doing the more challenging thing, which is to step up and get involved in the conversation and to help you have better conversations with the people in your lives.

Dan Stewart: And as real estate professionals, of course, this will include the people you're working with as buyers, the sellers whose homes you'd like to sell, all these prospects that you're nurturing, there's all sorts of conversations that can be had and there's a big question mark right now about, can I reach out? Should I reach out? What should I say if I do? So we're going to cover that today, we're going to cover it with the help of three individuals, two of whom I'm going to call out right from the start. One would be Mr Red [Staffsrom 00:01:57]. Red is a member of our Facebook group, What To Say Now, so thanks for that Red, much appreciated. And you recently asked a question that we need to respond to here. So I'm going to pull that question up right now and I'm going to read it for everybody.

Dan Stewart: So Red says, "I'm curious how agents should be discussing the current events without being overly political." That's a good question, right? He goes on to say, "How do you balance trying to be seen as a community leader, while not burning bridges? How do you create rational conversations that help people see you as a professional?" So I mean, there's some meaty questions there, just a few sentences, but wow. You can't just quickly dash off a reply to that, can you? I mean, what are your thoughts there when you hear those questions, Brian, what comes to mind for you first?

Brian Rayl: So the first thing is, I understand how people can think that what's going on right now is political, but it really shouldn't be. I mean, humanity to me is humanity, not politics. And what happened was just out and out wrong. And it's not because of Republican or Democrat, it's not because of anything other than, that was wrong. There were four people who were involved in wrongdoing, that any one of them could have stopped what was going on, none of them did, somebody innocent died.

Dan Stewart: I mean more so, it was their sworn duty to stop what was happening. I mean, the police exists to serve us, to protect and serve and to be, not merely marginalized, but actively murdered by the people whose very job is to protect you and keep you safe, it's an unforgivable crime. It really is. It's just absolutely disgusting. And to know that in 2020, in the United States of America, that we have to go, it seems like every few weeks or months, there's a similar story and I'm tired of it. I can only imagine what my friends who are people of color feel about this and how tired they must be of it. And it's for that reason that we have to go ahead and address this, right?

Dan Stewart: Because at What To Say Now, we truly believe that conversation is the cure to everything and that may seem a little crazy right now, so I feel like I need to break it down, that if you're in a relationship with someone, recognize that that relationship exists inside conversation, right? If you're in love with someone, the way you experience that feeling of being in love, is in the communication that takes place between you, that conversation, right? If you are a parent and you're raising children, well the way you raise those children, where that happens is in conversation. That's it, it's the only place that that can happen. So if we're going to have peace in the world, if we're going to negotiate trade deals, if we're going to discover the cure to a horrible disease, hey, we've got one of those, all of that stuff starts inside conversation. So right now, those of us who are like minded or have the mind to help in this scenario, we need some guidance about the sorts of conversations that we can have.

Dan Stewart: And so again, I'm going to come back to Red's question here, because I didn't just quickly answer him, there's so much of what we do is not just teaching you what to say, but it's teaching you the process that guides you to a place where you can have total confidence in what you're saying. So my response to Red here, I'm going to go ahead and read this. And I said, "Red, I think the first step is a true personal accounting of how you feel." This is critical because no matter what you say, you will almost certainly be required to defend it. As for being seen as a community leader, it's better to actually be a community leader. And leadership starts by leading ourselves first. Consider Colin Kaepernick, for example, his leadership and yes, that's exactly what he is, a leader. It hasn't led him to be universally embraced, future leaders are.

Dan Stewart: So I said that the real question I think is not merely what to say, it's being willing to accept the consequences of what is said, right? And we see that with Colin Kaepernick, his career has certainly been shelved because of his willingness to say, I've had enough and to protest something is a constitutionally guaranteed right. That's what we should be doing as Americans. If we disagree with something, we don't go break glass and start a fire, we peacefully protest and what could be more peaceful than simply taking a knee. So that to see all the rancor that was created over that and by the way, I come from a family that's filled with veterans, it's not disrespectful in my opinion, to the flag, to kneel during the National Anthem, because so many of my relatives who've given their lives to protect that freedom, that's exactly the sort of thing they're protecting it from, right? We need to have the ability to say what we feel.

Maya Paveza: Dan, to your point earlier of the conversation, this wouldn't be happening if there was a conversation. So that's the power of conversation.

Dan Stewart: Well conversation when it's structured the right way, gives us the opportunity to address these things in a way without bias and to have good conversations, we've got to have the right mindset going into them. And I think the right mindset starts by, like I said in response to Red, is with that pause, let's step back, let's go a littl e more slowly, let's really think through why we feel the way that we do. What is it that we feel we're so certain of, that we can say things like always and never, all these absolute statements that create no room for the other party to grow

Maya Paveza: My least favorite words.

Dan Stewart: When we've got a time like this, when there's something that's polarizing that's taking place, it's really tempting to sit back on the sidelines. And that's where I was led a little bit by a street artist, many of you will know, named Banksy. You guys know Banksy, Brian, Maya?

Brian Rayl: Yeah.

Dan Stewart: I mean, this guy is amazing.

Maya Paveza: The self destructing painting.

Dan Stewart: So many things this individual has done, is just absolutely amazing. And recently I posted on Facebook something that he had done, I wanted to share this because I think it's really powerful. And for what it's worth, one of my core beliefs is that if you have an understanding of art, you have a better understanding of what it really means to be human, right? You can really see the way the world works when you look at it through the eyes of an artist.

Dan Stewart: And so here's Banksy writing, he says, "At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue, but why would I do that? It's not their problem. It's mine. People of color are being failed by the system, the white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs, this faulty system is making their life a misery, but it's not their job to fix it. They can't, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. This is a white problem and if white people don't fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in." Wow, that's really powerful stuff, isn't it?

Maya Paveza: That's well put.

Dan Stewart: So what do we think, is that post condoning violence? Absolutely not, it's explaining the frustration that produces violence. It's illegal to break into a business and loot it. It's illegal to burn down someone else's property. These are crimes, it's not legal, we should never condone that sort of behavior. And yet, gosh, can't we empathize with the frustration that someone might be feeling? I think there's room for that. And this brings me to another topic that we're having to deal with. I mean, I haven't checked recently, Brian, are you still a white man?

Brian Rayl: Yeah, I think so.

Dan Stewart: I believe you are, right? And I'm obviously a white dude. Maya, not a dude and yet, right? So here's us three lily white people, having this conversation today and it's interesting and I think it takes guts for anyone to put themselves forward and express their opinion and their belief on these topics right now, right? So here's where I want to encourage a slightly different behavior, instead of originating your own content right now, as an individual, I want you to go out and engage on social media, in posts of those idiots in your lives, who are posting things that are inflammatory and offensive. Maybe, I'm just going to hypothesize, we're all connected to people who don't share the same views that we do, right? Maybe we have a crazy uncle or a friend of a friend, or just some buddy on Facebook, we're connected to them, we don't know how and they're posting things that are offensive, right?

Dan Stewart: Recently, I saw a post from someone who's moderately well known in the real estate industry. I will not name this individual because they're acting like an idiot, right? They need to be called out for this, but I think calling them out in public is just going to reinforce their opinion, it's going to give them something to defend instead of giving them the room to say, "Oh, maybe I really need to rethink this." And that's the opportunity that I think we have, that each of us has, that we should really try to exploit right now.

Dan Stewart: So one person responded to this post and I hesitate to share it. It had to do with the percentages of black people who killed black people, compared to police who killed black people, which is just stupid. To share that kind of thing right now, it's just stupid, like stop that sort of crap, right? I see that and I get irritated and yet I know the person who posted it and I think, this person has never been anything, but kind and nice and awesome to me. How is it that one person can post that sort of thing and also be awesome? There's not often an easy answer for these things and conversation is the place where we get to sort that out, right?

Dan Stewart: So I saw some replies to that statistic, which I can't imagine is accurate or it just doesn't even matter whether or not it is, it's just a stupid thing to post. But to see some of the one word responses to that, like people calling that person a racist or something about it must be nice to live in your cushy bubble. I see that sort of language in the post and I think, wow, this is now someone who's feeling attacked and when people are attacked, they react defensively.

Brian Rayl: Put up their shield.

Dan Stewart: Yeah. Rather than give someone an opportunity to defend this, I would rather give them an opportunity to move away from it, a little personal message to that person rather than something public, could go a long way right now. So for those idiots who are posting things like that, if change begins with me internally, well I need to change a behavior here, I need to not let that sort of thing slip by, I need to take some accountability for people I care about and the sorts of things that they're posting online. I'm not responsible for what they're posting, but I certainly can be called upon to engage with them in a way that I hope will lead them to a different direction. Does that make sense?

Brian Rayl: Absolutely.

Maya Paveza: So as long as they're willing to join you.

Dan Stewart: Let's not call them names, we don't ever want to do that.

Maya Paveza: No trolls.

Dan Stewart: If we're going to have a productive conversation, we've got to create a place where respect is maintained.

Maya Paveza: A safe space.

Dan Stewart: The moment name calling starts, then respect is out the window. Yeah, exactly. So if I asked a question, I would much more likely to get a better response. So I don't want to write a long preachy thing and just send it. I want to ask a question and in this scenario, I think the question should be, "Hey, you're getting a lot of feedback about that thing that you posted. How are you?" Just acknowledging it, right? We're not putting them on the defensive there, we're just somebody showing up willing to have a conversation. And then now that they've engaged and responded, that's when you can ask other questions that might lead them to change, like, "Was that the response you expected when you posted that?" They're forcing themselves to ask themselves that question, they have to. That's a better question for them to be asking then, "Who is this person calling me a name?"

Dan Stewart: We can control the thought process of that person by helping them ask themselves better questions. So the same technique, it's a present in every sales presentation that you make, it's just the art of persuasion, is really all it is. And I think we can persuade people away from needing to defend a mindset that was taught to them. It's not innate to them, it was taught to them. So I think we can teach them something better. Is that too radical guys? What do you think? Am I insane?

Maya Paveza: No, I think idealistically, it's what we should see. I mean, I think we're going to see that as generations move forward, but you can't teach an old dog new tricks. What somebody was brought up with and taught by family, is hard to unteach.

Dan Stewart: This whole, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, that to me is just as absolute as saying, always-

Maya Paveza: No, it's difficult, but you can. No, you can, it's difficult, but it's an investment and they have to be willing to join you.

Dan Stewart: Those are absolute terms. They do not have to be willing to join us, they don't, they can still be pigheaded and stubborn and insist on holding onto those beliefs. All we can control are our actions in that moment, that's it. We can invite them to have a conversation that might lead to change, that's all that we can do. We're not going to change that person's mind, ever, they have to change their minds.

Maya Paveza: But an enlightened thought can open a new way of thinking, potentially.

Dan Stewart: That's my hope. That's my hope is that we can lean into each other and share some things that cause us to think more effectively. Now Maya, how long have you been in real estate?

Maya Paveza: Active agent, since 2001, in the industry in some capacity, mostly since 1986. Too long.

Dan Stewart: Brian, how long have you been in real estate?

Brian Rayl: I think I got my license in 2008.

Dan Stewart: Okay. All right. And do you guys think that racism exists in real estate?

Maya Paveza: It's everywhere. I think, saying it's not in real estate is denying its existence in society.

Dan Stewart: It's absolutely abhorrent, it's rampant in real estate. It is. And my friend, Rob Hahn recently wrote a great article. If you guys in the audience don't know Rob Hahn, you should Google him, H-A-H-N. You're going to want to subscribe to his blog, the notorious R-O-B. He's a good, good dude. He's not afraid to wade into the messy stuff and help people think about things a little bit differently.

Maya Paveza: Yeah. He's Yale educated and he was an attorney before he left-

Dan Stewart: Harvard, actually.

Maya Paveza: Thought it was at Yale.

Dan Stewart: I'll begin a message later. Buyer Maya, she can't tell the difference between Yale and Harvard. Anyway, the thing that Rob did, and I'm going to pull this up right now so I can make sure to get it right. The title of his article is, is the real estate industry serious about race? And what this comes down to is the work that was done towards the end of last year in Long Island, right? Where we've got a bunch of real estate agents that were busted by the Newsday investigation, where they're caught on video behaving in ways that are absolutely racist. And with one exception, every single one of those agents is still actively employed in real estate, right? And the one person who's not left the industry by choice, just maybe to do something else, I don't know what the story is there.

Dan Stewart: But to see that that kind of behavior isn't really policed. I mean, what happened? Did they get a wrist slap? How is it that it's okay for people to engage in that behavior and still be employed at their brokerages? So everything that we've seen here, Rob calls this out brilliantly in his post, we've got messages from every major real estate brand about how racism has no home here at, insert brand name. And yet those very brands still employ the agents who were busted by Newsday sting.

Dan Stewart: So one thing that Rob did that I think was pretty cool, is he said, "Brands should publish their census. They should tell us what's the racial makeup of their companies." It's an interesting thing. And he actually points out that Redfin does. And so he went ahead and posted his, which is 100% Asian American, which Rob's Asian American and it's a small company, so I get it. And I thought, well, wouldn't it be interesting to take a look at Happy Grasshopper and break down what the census is inside our organization and go ahead and share that, right? I mean, I do not consider myself to be racist in any way, shape or form, I'm accepting of all people of all creeds, races, religion, sexual orientation. I have no issue with that at all. I love people of all variety. That's the flag I'm going to plant, that's the flag I believe in.

Dan Stewart: And I look at our company and I see we have 14.2% of our company are minorities, just 14.2%. I think, wow, that's interesting. And I thought, well, it'd be also interesting to take a look at the male versus female breakdown. And 57% of our company is male, 43% female. And I think further, gosh, wouldn't it be interesting to look at religious affiliations? We could look at age, are we ageist? I mean, I've got a couple of people in the company who are over 70 and I think that's awesome because they're fantastic, I'm really grateful to have them in the company. In terms of religion, we employ Christians, we have some Jews, we have some Muslims and we also have some atheists and we all seem to get along just fine because when we come to the office every day, we're focused on a common goal, we're not focused on our own personal belief structure, we're focused on the shared belief that the world gets better through conversation.

Maya Paveza: The Newsday situation with those agents should never have happened because federal fair housing, they test. I mean, to me, it's just alarming that it was permitted to go on and the brokers are just as responsible for keeping those people. It's shameful.

Dan Stewart: Well, I would love to just refer everybody to Rob's article because he names, names, he calls out the brokerages, he calls out the individuals at the brokerages. And in one case, here, I'll just read this quote here, Douglas Elliman, which was named in the Newsday sting, "Our hope is that we channel our deep anger, frustration and despair into collective and productive action. Each of us has our own strengths to add to the solution, march, donate, vote. We can all help make a difference." And Rob says he can't forget that this is the same Douglas Elliman who was saying mere months ago, "Newsday's report is an unreliable, unethical and unscientific attempt to create a new story where there is none."

Maya Paveza: I find it interesting having lived on Long Island, that it was the most-

Brian Rayl: I think you froze.

Maya Paveza: Dan? No, Dan's good. On Long Island, they segregate themselves by religion and race. At least when I was living there in the 80s, that's what people fell into. And it was so bizarre to me coming from the West coast, where my block looked like a rainbow, to Long Island where my entire neighborhood was Jewish, one family with Christmas lights. So I'm not surprised to hear that coming from that area, I would expect they would eventually evolve.

Dan Stewart: Well my take on the article was, it's a microcosm. They couldn't do a national study, but they focused on one area and they saw some things. And here, months later, we're seeing what's so common, I mean, everything is either pride month or black lives matter and I'm sick to death of corporate brands adopting a political opinion or a belief structure because they think it's better for their bottom line. It's okay to not agree with me on this, the world is big enough to have people who believe differently. But I think that my company's job is to serve its clients, that's what we have to do. We've got to take care of the people that choose to invest their money with us. We don't have to take a political position on anything, that's not our obligations. And so if we choose to do that, I think we'd better make sure that it's not just an economic motivator to do it. I think it rings hollow and people see right through it.

Maya Paveza: You couldn't put up with anything like that, Dan, because you're too honest and you have too much integrity. You couldn't take a position for a dollar, that's not who you are and that's not who your company is.

Dan Stewart: And yet, I sell stuff for a living. I'm a serial entrepreneur. I love to earn money and put that money to work. I mean, all of those things are okay, that's part of who I am for sure.

Maya Paveza: But that's because you're selling stuff you love and believe in and you're passionate about.

Dan Stewart: I get it when a corporate arm has a responsibility to help the company be more connected to a constituency within the population. I understand that motivation, it's done so poorly and so frequently that we all get a bit jaded and tired of it. So ver y purposefully, I keep my politics off social media, I don't think people have a clue whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or whatever boxes, four or five and six are, that's okay, that's all right. I know that at the end of the day, the person I need to exert the most influence over, is myself, right? That's it. Leadership always starts with us, we have to lead ourselves first. I think that if we can simply take this particular moment and do nothing but get more clear internally about what we really believe and why we really believe it and then let ourselves just be led to ask people questions, the world will become a better place as a result of that and I don't see any way around it.

Dan Stewart: So guys, I'm looking at the time it's 2:28. I could do an hour and a half on this topic. I know I could, Maya, you're probably like, "Dan, look at the clock here. We said we were going to do this and that and the other thing already."

Maya Paveza: I'm not a task master today.

Dan Stewart: Well this is a big topic and I'm happy to have more chats on this structure, this topic independent of the live show. Anybody's welcome to DM me, or you can just send an email to, What To Say Now at, happygrasshopper.com, where again, my staff and I are monitoring this Facebook group to just help you guys through communication issues. So you're welcome to post your questions there about anything and everything that's causing you a little bit of confusion with your database. Whether it's reaching out to past clients in sphere, whether it's how to convert those new leads, whether it's how to recruit people to your brokerage, I have a whole team of copywriters who are experts at answering those questions. So we look forward to helping you through those. So Brian and Maya, what do you think, was this a challenging episode?

Maya Paveza: Oh yeah.

Brian Rayl: Absolutely. But nothing good can happen without challenge. You think about back when, desegregation, that was a huge discussion and a lot of conflict. You think back to, brutality against women and stuff like that. You think about the LGBT fights that they've had recently. All of the me too movement. All of that had to have conversation in order to come to light before it could be addressed.

Maya Paveza: Yeah, there were other interesting conversations I saw starting to pop up today, so I think we could do a few more hours on this at some point. But thank you, Dan.

Dan Stewart: It's about tipping points. All of these other issues, all progress of humanity over time, you reach a point collectively where you're not willing to tolerate something that was once tolerated. When enough of us get to that point, that's where real change occurs. So the process has to start here. It's got to start in your own heart and the way to take what you've taken the time to understand and then share it with others, is to ask them the right questions. So thanks everybody for paying attention today, I really appreciate your involvement. And I'll see you next week for episode five.

Maya Paveza: Here we go.

Dan Stewart: Bye everybody.

Brian Rayl: Bye.