Is Personal Communication Dead?

by seanlow on September 13, 2016

Personal communication demands a personal response.   If you take the time to write or call someone, they should respond reasonably quickly and personally.

There is something about the digital world that has, ironically, removed the necessity of real conversation. Maybe it is because we are bombarded in an exponentially increasing manner with someone trying to reach us. I get it. However, human dignity is the willingness to listen and acknowledge being heard.

I am intolerant of the notion that someone who wants to personally communicate with me is not entitled to my timely considered response. All bets are off if I am being cold called or blanket emailed. But that is not personal. There is just no excuse today for not knowing something about me and my business before you reach out to try to sell me something.

It sounds small right? I mean all of your creative businesses respond well to clients, employees and colleagues. No brainer. And clients who want what you offer will respond well too. Surely.

Except it almost never happens. Even if there is communication, the platitudes and double-talk, non-answers and the impersonal creep in. After all, there are those other gagillion emails, texts and calls waiting for a response.

Stop. Just stop.

You cannot control how other people respond to you, your art and your creative business, but you can control how you and your creative business respond to them. Be timely and be real. Know what you are saying and why you are saying it. Sure, there might be disagreements and confusion. However, these are not stumbles, they are opportunities. Opportunities to know each other better, appreciate the essence of what is at stake, which has nothing to do with getting done.

Every creative business finishes a project. If everything is directed at getting done then human dignity goes out the window. Of course, finishing is where you are heading and if something is taking you off course, by all means fix it. Then stop and listen. Respond from what you have heard. Be uncomfortable and allow your discomfort to inform what comes next. Being willing to listen and be real does not mean you are any less of a guide or in control, it just means you are a human being living in relation to another human being.

The issue here is the willingness of those around you to serve the platitudes, the non-answers, the formulaic idiocy (ahem, line item pricing), because it is an easier path to the end. In creative business, easier is NEVER better. Why? Because you are tasked with creation, working with those who are (understandably) terrified that you will fail. It is the essence of personal. Fake or non-communication is like patting a kid on the head telling her it will be ok as she watches her house burn down. It might be ok later, but not now. Now requires that you acknowledge where you are, but are resolute that you know how to make it better than ok – later.

Maybe you are comfortable in the realm of non or fake communication. However, if your aim is to be truly indispensible, being present, diligent and respectfully responsive is all that matters. The act of creation is messy and hard, fraught with uncertainty and fear. You can run from it, ignore it or gloss over it. Or you can live in it, see its beauty and share the reality with clients, employees and colleagues alike. Be the beacon in the storm always. Your form of communication  will define a larger future for you and your creative business. My advice, be real, be determined and listen.  Conversation breeds trust and trust is the foundation of opportunity.

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Two Sides Of The Trade

by seanlow on August 25, 2016

Creative business is different. Sure, you all provide things at the end of the day. Photographs, furniture, flowers, lighting, food. However, it is never just about the thing.

Think about toothpaste. No one at Proctor and Gamble is moved when they see someone buy a tube of Crest, let alone brush their teeth with it. They enjoy selling the product and they are proud that it works well for the consumer. That is where it begins and ends for Proctor and Gamble. They are happy if they sell a lot of toothpaste, not so much if they do not.

Now think about your creative business, your art. If you did not care about the reaction to your work, you would not be around for very long. Every creative business owner I know strives for joy, for transformation. You want that look on your client’s face. The look that says you got them, go to them, moved them. For so many of you, it takes months, maybe years with a client to get that look. Layer upon layer of relationship, trust building, tension and resolution, over and over again.

If this is the essence of what you do – a journey to joy, why would you ever insist on looking like toothpaste? Make it all about the thing, the stuff, what the end product costs, instead focusing on what matters – how you are going to get from here to there, together?

Of course, the cost of production matters. No champagne on a beer budget. It just does not matter beyond expectation equivalence – you can create for them based on their budget or you cannot.

So what stops you from really going there with your clients? Really owning what it is you actually do (i.e., go on a journey, not sell toothpaste)? You can tell me it is fear. Of maybe not getting any business if you look different. Or looking too expensive since what is the price of the journey worth anyway?

Or maybe it is something even deeper – your willingness to erase yourself, to be in service instead of service to those who would pay for your work. Are you intimidated by your client’s money? Their profession? Their education?

Maybe it is a little (or a lot) of both fear and intimidation.

The answer has to be in the value YOU receive when you create. The knowledge you have earned in not just how sweet the end is, but the power of the journey. The reward you receive when your art, your creation does what is intended. Can you see your power and that of your art and your creative business in the equation?

If you can value your own joy, your own pleasure as part of transaction, perhaps you can see your own light. To know that you, your art and your creative business matter beyond the thing you provide. And if you go there, maybe, just maybe, you might refuse to have your creative business look like toothpaste. Art first. Stuff second.

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