Recently, I was reminded of an old allegory about a man who dies and goes to Heaven. Finding the venue a little dull, he asks if he might be allowed to explore the “Other Place“, and is permitted to go there for a brief visit.
Upon his arrival down below, the Devil shows him a beautiful cavern filled with soft light and soothing music, incredible food, and all kinds of pleasures, making it almost impossible for the man to now choose to spend eternity anywhere else.
Upon his return up above, and after thinking it over thoroughly, the man asks permission to relocate to the Devil’s delightful den for all eternity. Although his request is granted, the man is warned that the decision is final, and once gone this time, he can never come back to Heaven. Nonetheless, having seen what it is like beneath, the man feels sure of his choice.
But once the pearly gates have been closed behind him, the man is shocked to find that his chosen homestead is unbearably hot. The soft lighting that the Devil showed him earlier has been replaced by harsh, searing flames. The sumptuous food before him previously has been replaced by inedible, unspeakable things, and there is terrible pain in place of all the pleasures.
“I don’t understand,” the man yells to his host. “Yesterday, you showed me something wonderful, and today, it’s THIS???”
“Yesterday, you were a prospect,” replies the Devil. “Today, you are a client.”
Last year, I hired someone to assist me with a project. I’ll call her Sarah. My initial conversations with Sarah were enchanting. She talked about really listening to me so she could understand and meet my needs. She talked about weekly communication and working within budgetary and time constraints. She sent me a detailed questionnaire to work on, asking me about my goals for the project and my preferences with regard to several matters, and the contract she drew up for our work together was both seriously professional and more personally warm and friendly.
I was happily hooked. And then…
I became a client.
During the first two weeks, Sarah asked me twice to supply her with information I had already provided on her detailed questionnaire. By week three, she gave no more weekly updates. There were some occasional emails about a website access problem she encountered that I needed to fix, and a couple offering me some choices for the first phase of the project, but no word about how the project was actually progressing.
Near the end of the month, I received an emailed bill for over 20 total hours of work at the agreed-upon rate. There were no details—no explanation of what had been done for 20 hours, or of the status of the project. So, I asked for an itemized bill and some more specific communication. A week later, I still hadn’t gotten a response.
At first, I was a prospect. Now, I was in the “Other Place“…
Maybe Sarah had been working hard on our project. Maybe she had put in a lot more than 20 hours and had been kind enough to cut back the numbers for me. Without communication, however, I still felt I had fallen victim to a bait-and-switch. Sarah was no “Devil”, but she had over-promised and under-delivered; she eventually confessed that she had blown it and agreed to tear up the bill and refund my deposit, so thankfully, I wasn’t locked in to an eternal disappointment.
I actually felt bad for Sarah. For her—another mortal, well-meaning professional—this was an expensive lesson about communication. When the news is good, share it. When the news is bad, share that, too. Maybe if she had explained to me the downfalls of our current situation, we could have avoided any anger and frustration on my part; we could have extended the deadlines, or perhaps, made arrangements to end the relationship sooner, parting without buyer’s-remorse and the requisite refund.
Maybe you don’t have the clients or work relationships you want because you haven’t been a good communicator. If so, you may be giving others the impression that they’ve been fooled. Contact me if you’d like to talk about how we might purify your reputation and assure those you work with of your best intentions.
In the meantime, aim upwards, and keep REACHING…