It's been about five months since our move to Pennsylvania, and finally, we have a bed. No more sleeping on a mattress on the floor! The short story is that we found a bed we loved, but it arrived damaged. Twice. So, we gave up and looked elsewhere. We finally found a different bed, and it got delivered last Tuesday. We couldn't be happier. So, why am I sharing this? Let me explain.
When the delivery showed up, I asked if the guys would wait for me to unpack the items before they left. I didn't want to get stuck with a damaged bed for weeks again or make them come back.
Before I knew it, the delivery guys were unpacking the bed in the driveway, bringing in each piece one by one. It seemed like this might have been a common practice, but I couldn't help feeling like I was making things complicated.
As they left, I wondered, when else have I approached situations with the baggage of past negative experiences? Different bed. Different brand. Different delivery company. Yet, I didn't feel comfortable taking my chances with them.
The whole situation reminded me of a client who seems to question every suggestion we make. Or a stakeholder's request to print out websites designs and mail them to their office (true story). To us, these situations may seem odd, annoying, or crazy, but there's always more to the story.
In this case, I offered up my context, sharing why I made the original request and how much I appreciated their help. I didn't want the delivery guys feeling confused and thinking, what is up? Unfortunately, not everyone offers this context openly. Sometimes, we have to dig.
Once we do, we find the questioning client got burned by a past agency. Why are we sending websites in the mail? The client likes to be hands-on and finds it easier to give written feedback (and send pictures of mockups cut up and pasted back together).
I find there's freedom in this understanding. It helps us stay focused on the work, free of judgment, and opens the doors to new ways to create value. Maybe it's inviting the nervous client into a workshop where they can feel more involved or showing the print-loving client how to annotate on the web. These small actions can go a long way and set us on the path to a long, fruitful collaboration.