The vast majority of the work I do involves people that I have never met. I have a few local clients, sure, but most of my clientele resides in other states, if not countries, from my own.
It makes the act of forming and creating true, actual connections challenging. While we both work toward the same common goal, that goal is expressed and communicated mostly via the methodology that I’m using right now: fingers on a keyboard.
This is, for the most part, fine. As my clients’ voice to the outside world, one of the things I pride myself on is my ability to deduce and decipher personalities, nuances, and the rest of the things that make us unique as individuals, solely from the things that I read from them.
I take the sum of our interactions and create, in my mind, a persona for each and every client I have. One of them “writes” very directly. They do not beat around the bush and they present their information with an almost robotic efficiency. Another seems like they could have gone into business as a professional storyteller rather than the line of work they chose. They approach their business and their style with a familiarity that puts customers, and potential customers, at immediate ease.
I will, at times, write for both of these clients on the same day. The end of those days will, at times, involve scotch.
In my daily routine, the ding of an email is a call for attention. The subject line of a message sitting in my inbox is the patient wait for me to tend to a need. The typeface of a message’s content is the “face” that’s presented during our interaction.
Sometimes something happens, however, that completely reintroduces a client to me.
I woke up one morning early last week week to an email from an overseas client. This isn’t uncommon. I was expecting a status update or a question on something we’re working on. Emails from my clients on the other side of the world stack up overnight and wait for me to sort through them with coffee each morning.
This email, however, contained none of those things. What I found instead was a picture.
The client had gathered their team in front of a lens, snapped a photo, and sent it to me.
Typed out, this all seems so simple. After all, in today’s mostly visual world we take photos almost every day. But the feeling of seeing that photo, especially since it was not expected, is something that will not soon be forgotten.
See, I knew what my primary contacts within the organization looked like; I’d seen their pictures numerous times. I did not, however, have the slightest idea what anyone else in the company looked like. I’d never seen the smiles on their faces. I’d never seen their eyes and the way they shine as they work toward success; for the company and for themselves.
I could have walked past any one of them on the street and not thought twice. I could have spent hours in the same room with them and had no idea that they were as dependent on me for their prosperity as I was on them, in some part, for my own.
It’s all too easy to forget in this world of keyboards and monitors that there are real-life, actual people on the other side of these devices. It’s easy to forget that, while an email may just be a collection of words, those words represent the collective hopes and dreams of so many others.
This holiday season, as gifts are unwrapped and thank-you’s are exchanged, I’ll say a silent thank you to this client for giving me a look inside their world from a few thousand miles away. I’ll thank them for a wonderful reminder of what these relationships mean. And, I’ll thank them for a beautiful break in a morning routine that reminded me, yet again, of why I do what I do.