3 things you should know when you work with people

We all want the people around us to leave satisfied. When you work with people, whether personally or professionally, there are a few basic characteristics of human nature that you need to keep in mind.

 

Around here, I’m subject to the needs of tiny people. Tiny people who don’t think the same way I do. Because they are tiny (read: they have an undeveloped brain, lack a lot of knowledge on how the world works, and have very little life experience).

 

You might be subject to the needs of your clients and maybe even your own tiny people. I empathize. Working with and amongst other people is one of the best parts of life – there is so much we can do together. It’s also really tough work. We get in our own way when we forget that we are all different, with different levels of understanding and different life experiences. And we forget that those differences are a good thing.

 

With your clients, you are more knowledgable + experienced in the skills and cluster of concepts surrounding your craft. Their lack of understanding is not wrong (it’s why they are paying you). As the professional, learning to read your clients and probe for their level of understanding + how they feel about the experience is essential. How else can you ensure they are having the best experience possible and will LOVE the outcome after working with you??

When you work with clients, you need to know a few things about how the average person works. Save yourself the headache and read these 3 facts about people. More at http://alisanelson.co

 

 

A few things to be aware of when you work with people:

  1. How we feel about something often matters the most
  2. We all have blind spots
  3. Most of us have control issues

 

Now let’s look a little closer at each of these.

How we feel about something often matters the most

 

The part of our brain that controls emotion – the limbic system – often overrides our logic + reasoning. This is the “I do what I don’t want and what I want I don’t do” conundrum. We have to expect the people around us have this same issue. Your clients may react a certain way or have a gut feeling about your work that they can’t articulate better than “I don’t like it.” Their level of self-awareness will determine how they handle this experience. This is HUGE because it’s here that distance starts to creep between you and your client. What they need is for you to use your knowledge + experience to help them process that gut feeling into a more helpful form of feedback.

 

You may be able to proactively give your clients the information and language they need to provide helpful feedback. With Grace and Gold does a great job of this with their blog. Recently, I got a lot of value from this post on color theory where they gave me the language to describe how color schemes make me feel.

 

Whether it is before a client books or in the midst of working with them, give your clients the language they need to effectively work with you. The better their tools for communicating their needs, the better they will feel about the experience.

 

We all have blind spots

 

As a mom, I get the opportunity to ease the stress of trying to understand everything at once. When my kids are crabby, tugging on me, or struggling to control their bodies, they don’t really know why. Their brains still have a lot of developing to do and so much of their world is new – all they know is they want what they want NOW.
I call these my children’s blind spots (actually, I just came up with that while writing and really liked it. So now I’m going with it).
As un-PC as this may sound, your clients are the same way. If we think about your skills on a scale of developmental stages, your clients are most likely novice level. They don’t know why they are hyperfocusing on the perfect shade of peach – they just know something is wrong and they want what they want NOW.

You can step in to your clients’ blind spots. Just as I have to have a mental list of my children’s needs, so must you. Take stock of your experience – where are the gaps most often popping up for your clients? My photographer friend, Kirsten of K Solberg Photography, sends out a prep email before a shoot with important tips and reminders. Prior to a styled shoot I did with her, she eased stress I didn’t know I had by providing details on what I should do to prepare. All I had to do was show up because she didn’t expect me to operate in my blind spots. (And I didn’t even throw a tantrum!) This is why I LOVE working with her and recommend her to anyone who asks.

 

Most of us have control issues

 

As humans we have a basic need for certainty. In survival terms, that’s security in the sufficiency of people and resources around us. In our modern world, it also includes fulfilled expectations. The best way to ensure certainty is to personally control the situation, right? Especially where we feel most vulnerable. Like our wedding day or our brand identity.

 

Anyone relying on another person is going to feel vulnerable – and most (just because I can’t confidently say all) will be tempted to try to control the situation. Think micromanaging. So those emails you get late at night with more questions, instructions, or another “I changed my mind!” (while frustrating) are most likely data: your client is struggling with an expectation that feels very, very important. And they are having trouble handing it over to you.

 

Following the previous tips, you can increase certainty by preparing your clients with accurate expectations + anticipating where they might have trouble. In addition, setting guidelines for your clients can reduce their uncertainty. For example, there is a commonly recurring tip to set business hours. This protects you from the stress of answering emails as soon as they come in (at 11pm) but also, when stated, give your clients certainty of when they can reach you and when to expect a reply. In our culture with so many things vying for our attention, it becomes common practice to over communicate because we expect we are being ignored or forgotten.

 

Lastly, while the extra work can be frustrating, remember that it’s a big part of your job to build trust with your clients. That’s a whole other blog post so I’ll leave it at a specific tip: schedule a call or in-person meeting with them. Actively demonstrate that you want to hear them and address their concerns. This doesn’t mean you are bending to every demand – it actually shows confidence to proactively engage a difficult client. By meeting with them, you get the opportunity to convey confidence in your abilities and also probe more for their expectations (so you can give them a more accurate outlook or adjust your plan).

 

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You get the pleasure of spending your time and effort on a better human experience for the people around you. That’s not an easy task but it is a worthy task. Keep these characteristics in mind and build systems that decrease uncertainty for your clients.

 

So let’s hear from you.

  • What’s your favorite way to improve client experience?
  • What blind spots are you covering?
  • Whose doing it well? (I’d love to get more examples of creative girlbosses rocking their client experiences!)

 

  • Totally agree with people being driven by how they feel, and that it’s powerful to create an experience that anticipates what they may feel… in my experience, this has been another way to think about branding. Especially if you have an office where you meet clients, it’s great to think about smells, textures, and sounds — the “tactile” parts of a brand. Maybe it’s a playlist that matches your business vibe and energizes your client. In my case (I have a studio where I lead writing workshops), I make good lighting a priority. When people enter my space, the warm lighting is the first cue that I want to offer them a safe, cozy space to stretch their creativity.

    • Emily, that’s so cool! I love that you have put thought into every aspect of your client’s experience. Thanks for the excellent example!

  • I love that… “anyone relying on another person is going to feel vulnerable.” This is so true, and such an important nugget for us all to remember. I ask a lot of questions, and allow my clients to feel heard and understood.

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