This Is A (Leasing, Sale, Loan) Deal. Why Have You “Gone Missing”?

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If you don’t like screeds, stop right now and we’ll see you next week after the extended July 4 holiday. Otherwise, tread lightly as you read on.

Doing a lease, a loan or a sale (and things like that) shouldn’t be like doing a divorce; it should be like doing an adoption. These are just business deals; just “money.” No one is or should be besmirching anyone’s reputation, seeking revenge or taking children away. And, even if that were the case, the negotiators are not the angry parties. Presumably, they are professionals.

So, why won’t some return phone calls, email messages or letters? Certainly, it can’t be to “punish” the other negotiator. It must be plain (unprofessional) discourtesy. And it makes “your” problem someone else’s problem as well.

If you haven’t done the work – didn’t get to it yet – fess up. Let the other side know so that it can make its own plans – so that it can update its own principal (e.g., client). Don’t put the other negotiator in the position of trying to explain the status of a transaction to her or his “party,” when they she or he doesn’t have information that you have.

If the delay has already been unreasonable, don’t double down by “going missing.” Don’t make your counterpart spend wasted time trying to reach you and also spend wasted time telling her or his principle that she or he isn’t hearing back from you.

Yes, there are times when your own principle isn’t getting back to you and you don’t know what to tell “the other side.” Why not tell them that you and your principle haven’t yet worked out a usable response. You don’t have to complain (or reveal) that your principle (e.g., client) has gone missing.

Say something.

Silence is often interpreted more adversely than reasonably accurate information that one might not want to hear.

Yes, you are sometimes put in the middle. Do your best to keep your counterpart in negotiations from being dragged into your dilemma.

How about: “I received your email (or voicemail) message and I’m working on it. I’ll let you know when I can back to you as soon as I have a good idea as to when that might be.”

Sometimes, the call you don’t return was to give you information that might help you move the ball forward.

Sometimes, when you are afraid to say that you won’t be able to send your “comments” for a week, you could have found out that it was: “No problem, I’m on vacation until then.”

Here’s what puzzles Ruminations the most. Haven’t you been on the other side of the “gone missing, silent treatment” yourself? Haven’t you been in the uncomfortable position of feeling that your client or boss doesn’t believe you after the fifth time you’ve repeated, “She or he isn’t getting back to me”? Haven’t you ever been in a position of deal limbo that wouldn’t be the case if you had some idea about when you’ll “hear back”?

So, why do that to someone else?

Ruminations has no intent, today or any other day, to imply that all of its readers are “guilty as charged.” We are sure there are many readers who never fit into the “you” we have written about today. But, is there any reader who has been in this business more than a year or two who couldn’t supply the name of a “you” or two or ten who don’t respond to inquiries and who take forever to turn work around? Ruminations will go out on a limb and answer, “No.”

While we are at it, if you don’t go to court or aren’t in a meeting, please ask your staff to stop saying that’s what’s going on. How do you answer the next day (or three days later) when asked, “how did it go in court on Monday?” What we’ve often heard is: “what are you talking about, I never go to court.” A simple, “she’s not available, can I take a message” would suffice.

Why a screed today, Ruminations? That’s because it’s a holiday weekend and our practice is to keep it short(er) and to stay away from information-packed postings. Also, we got annoyed last week. It’s hard to feel you are a professional when you are involved with others who clearly aren’t. You feel like a character in “The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away,” lyrics by Benjamin Hapgood Burt.



  1. Hi, Ruminations. I am thoroughly enjoying your offerings and the opportunity to exchange ideas. Although I’m only (and just barely) a high school graduate, having negotiated about 2,000 leases in 39 years, I enjoy the challenge of attempting to keep up with your wisdom.

    As to your “screed”, one valid negotiation tactic is to delay responding in order to establish the (true or false) impression that we are not in a hurry, we don’t “need” this deal and can easily walk away with no pain. When such a calculated delay compels the other side to reach out, that’s a terrific “buying signal” which might inform my negotiation strategy.

  2. Ira, I feel your pain. It’s so abundantly clear and simple. Successful negotiation is about building relationships. The landlord tenant relationship itself should be collaborative, not competitive. These ideas are foundational. They animated the shopping center business a generation ago.

    Today, landlords, tenants and their hired hands often behave in short-sighted destructive conduct, as if they learned negotiation from reality TV. The phenomena is bad business, makes for much unpleasantness and puts the brick-and-mortar retail industry in retrograde motion compared to ascendent collaborative enterprises like eBay, Amazon and the like.

    This is a great place to address a dismal trend. Keep smiling!

  3. Sue Cole says


    I think this may be a “valid negotiation tactic” among the business folks. They are, after all, in charge of the deal, whether they want it or not, and how much of a hurry they’re in. When it hits one of the negotiator’s desks, each lease deserves our best efforts: returning comments/re-drafts the same day if possible; answering calls and emails; and generally doing everything we can to get it done. Our mission is to negotiate in good faith and move on to the next deal.

  4. I respectfully submit that there is nothing wrong with delaying a response without calling to offer an apology or explanation. I find that landlords do it all the time without compunction. And I’m sure that they feel that they are acting in good faith throughout the effort.

    My experience amply shows that calculated delays, in and of themselves, are not at all destructive to the process and do not generate “unpleasantness” nor do they hinder development of a good working relationship between landlord and tenant.

  5. Alan Betus says

    I have no problem with a delay as a negotiating tactic – well, I do, but I guess I can see the relative merits of it (not really). I do, however, have a problem with complete radio silence. It’s disrespectful, unprofessional and unnecessary. You can delay and still be responsive.

    “We need a few more weeks before we can respond”, or “We are still reviewing your latest draft”, both serve to delay the deal but yet provide a response to an inquiry of “where are we with this deal?” Don’t be disrespectful or unprofessional. Respond to someone when they ask you for an update.

  6. Actually, Alan, I often DO call and just say “My client isn’t ready to respond yet.”

    • Of course you do, George, and bravo.

      As Spock said in Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, “There are two possibilities. They are unable to respond. They are unwilling to respond.” And Kirk ordered red alert, too late.

      Extended silence is sometimes appropriate and often earned. I don’t think Ira’s posting conflicts with that idea.

      The retail real estate environment has changed enormously in the last 20 years, for many reasons. The focus on comity, on relationship, has been eroded. The critical idea that landlord/tenant tenant relations are synergistic, that our job as pros is to get parties to “yes” simply does not register for many, especially younger, participants.

      The ICSC recognizes this troublesome trend and asked several of us to lead a ReCon workshop on “negotiation and relationships” focused on Next Gen attorneys and leasing reps, a few years back. It was well received but we need to do more on point.

      I am guessing that Ira and virtually all his readers represent the bright side of the Force–it’s encouraging to see folks support these discussions.

  7. Robert Shansky says

    I actually concur with Sue and Alan and George, I think one can be responsible and professional and communicate when engaged consistent with the client’s objectives.
    I have practiced for over 40 years and I have always answered my phone in part to be available to clients and adverse counsel. In many ways I think the use of e-mail has enhanced the potential for delay.

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