I attended a meeting yesterday where the speaker said that culture gives us context for interpretation (much abbreviated from what he said, but that was the gist). Â I thought that was interesting because there are times when one does exactly what one thinks a customer wants only to have it go horribly wrong and not understand why. Â Our culture is influencing our interpretation of the situation so we can’t understand.
Recently, my dog brought me a baby bunny from a nest in the backyard. From his standpoint, he was doing a good thing by eliminating pests. Â From my standpoint my baby is a killer! Â Two perspectives that couldn’t be more different! Â But, as his client, Fritz has worked hard to try to understand and do the right thing. Now, as he’s a dog, he tries to do the same thing again but the situation still applies. Â He’s working harder to find rabbits rather than have the ability to understand I don’t want him to do that at all.
Good thing we’re smarter than dogs, right? Â Obviously having a conversation with someone when something has gone wrong is incredibly difficult. Â You know they think you’ve gotten it wrong and yet you thought you did everything right. Â How can you not be emotionally involved? Â So instead, you have to approach the situation understanding that in your culture you did everything right but in the client’s, something is different. You are now officially an anthropologist!
Approach the situation as you would any learning situation. Â Go in understanding you have a bias and need to determine where that is different than expectation. Â If you have a good relationship with the client, you can start by asking to discuss the situation and then explaining why you did what you did. Â As unemotionally as possible. Â From that discussion you should be able to get information back on where their perception is different or even uncover a misunderstanding! Â Use lots of “I” messages – “I felt” and “I wanted” convey you aren’t judging their differences, but instead representing what happened from your perspective.
If you don’t know the client well yet, this could be the moment you get to be a true partner. Â Explaining that you know this didn’t go the way either of you wanted and you would really appreciate the opportunity to discuss it says you are a professional and big enough to admit you made a mistake. Â Most people aren’t going to turn away from that and frankly if they do, they are looking for a standard that isn’t reasonable. Let your competition have them as a client – you would spend too much time on them. Â But if you can sit down, again go in knowing that you misunderstood something and need to determine where the breakdown occurred. Working together to figure out how things could have been handled better can get you a long way in a relationship.
How about you – ever had a Fritz moment where you knew you did it right and found out you were wrong? Â How did you handle it with the client?