The other day after scheduling one of my last few haircuts before baby girl arrives, my salon called and informed me that my usual hair stylist wasn’t actually available at the time they scheduled me for. Although I thought that was a bit odd that they had booked me for a time that she was unavailable, no biggie, what time is she available? Well, no time in the near future apparently… So I asked, was there someone else? My hair was looking pretty scraggly so waiting 6 more weeks really wasn’t an option for me. They searched around and found out that yes there was someone else, Stephen. Anxiously I said, “Ok… that’s fine”
Now for most people, booking themselves with a new hairstylist can be pretty terrifying, and I’m included in that majority. This stranger doesn’t know you, your hair, or your hair style. You probably like things done a very specific way because well, this is your hair we’re talking about. If it gets messed up, it’s immediately noticeable.
Having the same hair stylist is also a huge source of comfort to most people. It may have taken them months or maybe even years to finally find this one person that they trust their hair with. So having to go out on a limb and trust someone else with your hair is, well, nothing short of a leap of faith.
The day of my haircut I was a bit weary and anxious to say the least, “What was he going to be like? Would he be friendly? Would he cut my hair just the way I like it? What if it was a complete disaster?” It’s enough to keep you up at night, although being 8 months pregnant, let’s be honest, that’s a pretty easy thing to do.
But my fears were instantly calmed when he came to get me from the lobby. He warmly greeted me, shook my hand, and simply said “You have beautiful hair.” No going on and on, and nothing over the top, just a simple compliment. And that paired with his smile and kind nature, immediately relaxed me and set me up for the fantastic time (and haircut) that was to follow.
Calm the Fear of “Designer Judgement”
Now what does me having a ridiculous amount of nerves about using a new hairstylist have to do with you and interior design? Well, a lot actually – because the same thing is happening with your design clients. Now they’re obviously not concerned because their “usual” interior designer is unavailable and they’re working with you simply because you are. But regardless, the thoughts and concerns are still going to be there.
Their thoughts are still going to be,”What will they be like? Will they be friendly? Will they design my space the way I like it? What if it’s a complete disaster?” And all of these fears can be calmed upon first meeting with just a small, but sincere compliment.
Now a lot of clients that you’re working with for the first time may be terrified of what I call “designer judgement.” It’s this fear that builds in a potential clients’ mind about what the designer, you, must be thinking about the design of their current space, how hideous it is, and how ridiculous they are for having designed it to its current state. They genuinely fear what a designer must be thinking, and God forbid, actually say. Some of your first time clients may have even said something to you resembling, “I’m embarrassed to show you around.”
Small, Specific, & Sincere Complements Make a Huge Impact
So what do you do about this? How do you combat this huge fear of designer judgement? Simply share a small, specific, and sincere compliment. Go out of your way to notice. Make it a part of your process.
Because although you’re of course not going to be going in and insulting a client’s space, you probably won’t be complimenting it either as that’s not usually on your mind as something you should be focusing on. I mean, you are there to change it, that’s what they hired you for. Why do you need to appreciate what’s already there and about to go?
Well, because it makes a difference. A huge difference. People like to hear a compliment, actually need to hear a compliment every once in awhile. They need to know that you have genuine respect and appreciation for something about them or the things that they’ve spent their time doing, especially before you come and change it all.
So I encourage you to find something to compliment, to genuinely appreciate about them and their home – whether it be the neighborhood they live in, the state of their yard or landscaping, the fantastic condition of all of their pieces, go ahead and genuinely compliment it. Your potential clients’ walls will come down immediately.
Remind Your Current Clients What You Admire About Them Too
But you don’t just have to, nor want to, reserve the compliments for your first interactions. You want to be sharing positive and complimentary statements throughout the entire process with a client, especially when things are stressful. They’ve invested a lot of time and money in this, and they want to know that ultimately its still going to be worth it, even if it’s hard to see the light at the end of the stressful, money tunnel at this moment.
Now again, not over the top, and not every time as it can start to come off as insincere. But every once in awhile a “Your project is coming along just beautifully” or “I so appreciate how quickly you always respond to us” or “You’re always so prepared for every meeting and it’s just wonderful” will be more than appreciated and make a mighty impact. A simple, sincere, specific, and straight forward statement yes, but ultimately mighty in its effect.
Nothing Picks Us Up like a Sincere Complement
A complimentary reminder now and then that things are actually going well (which to them they interpret as “this is worth it and will turn out in the end”) can make all the difference in the world. It’s the bright pick me up clients need when it may feel like to them, all hell is breaking loose or simply that, well, things really aren’t going anywhere even though we just dropped $40,000 and have nothing yet to show for it.
So the next time you’re with your clients, potential or current, take a moment to notice something that you genuinely appreciate or admire, and compliment them on it. Relieve their fears of designer judgement, or that their project isn’t really worth the investment, by sharing a kind word. It’s a time that you show, in yet one more way, that you’re attentive – not only to their project but also to them.
A little compliment really does goes a long way.
Share in the comments below, do you make a point to regularly compliment your clients? If so, what difference has it made in your relationships and interactions?