Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Consulting Like Dating?

If so, it really explains a lot. The tech republic has a blog entry that goes all pedantic about the simile, but there is at least the illusory feeling of truthiness to it.

I never dated as a kid. As a teen I think I had one date, and it went nowhere. Truth is, I didn't know what was expected of me in social situations then, and more or less still don't now.

The article starts off with, "keeping clients happy may be similar to keeping your significant other interested," which strikes me as ironic and a little funny given that most married folks in the US end up divorced.

Well, I tried to bend over backwards to keep people happy. It doesn't work, for them or for me. So when a recent prospect complained to a mutual friend that I was a "dead end," because I hadn't been in contact for three weeks, at first I was a little bit taken aback and afraid that something I had not done was unprofessional and had spoiled the relationship.

Then I realized, we don't have a relationship, that prospect and I. We never did. She said she'd be in touch, but expected me to be banging down her door. She wanted me to tell her I had free hours I did not have. She complained to her friend instead of probing me back. She wanted me to dance, and I'm not a dancer.

I understand. I know there are many people far more successful than myself because they do the dance, they have a knack of schmoozing and persuasion. Those were skills that at first I merely lacked, but then consciously eschewed. It was not just a recognition of how much effort was wasted, or that the cost to me personally of trying to do that dance was too exhausting.

It was the false premise of it, the inert fakery sitting behind the outward countenances, and the desire of seemingly nice people to take advantage of your openness. It does not excite me to be constantly mindful to probe and prod clients constantly when I'm solving technical problems.

And when my own family members aren't interested in talking to me, worrying about whether I'm stroking a client's ego frequently enough just isn't on my list of priorities. Frankly, the prospect complaining to her girlfriend told me a lot about her style of communication and her own ability to think straight, and it isn't good.

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