This is the first time I’ve posted a blog in a while, as my social media activities have been on the back burner for the past month. Nothing against y’all, but I’ve had family from the Netherlands staying with me and there is only so much of myself to go around. I did keep tabs on other people’s posts and tweets so I know I have a lot of good stuff to catch up on, but I’ve mostly been confined to lurker status.
During this period of social abstinence a few thoughts occurred to me about my usual forms of interaction.
If you’ve read some of my other posts you know I’m not a fan of the phone call. The whole ritual of identification, the introductory small talk which must strike the perfect note between cordiality and business and the polite extrication noises at the end are not my idea of a roaring good time. Of course I have learned to do all the above or I wouldn’t have a functioning business, but I infinitely prefer the streamlined, low-stress effectiveness of a simply e-mail. “Dear so and so, this is my point, best regards”, done.
Another reason I prefer e-mail is because they have built-in time-outs for formulating a response under pressure. It’s much easier to say no to a subpar offer when the terms are spelled out in black and white than when you’re talking to a desperate project manager who is asking you if there is “any way at all that you could find it in your heart to take on this rush project at a slightly lower rate just this one time please, I would really really really appreciate it”.
I’ve collected a few stand-by phrases over the years that come in handy so I don’t have to think up a whole new response when I’m put on the spot:
- I’m sorry, [normal rate] is the best I can do.
- That doesn’t work for me; I’m going to have to pass, sorry.
- In that case I’m going to let someone else take this project, sorry.
This usually ends the conversation with a mumbled “ok thanks anyway”, but it’s still awkward and much more difficult than the cheerful efficacy of an e-mail. Of course this is exactly the strategic point of the phone call, and the reason why I don’t feel bad about parrying these overtures with an e-mailed refusal at times. It beats getting talked into bargain basement rates because you can’t say no.
Yet another reason I don’t like the phone is because you can’t see facial expressions, and being a visual person that leaves me feeling like I’m talking into a void. You’d think that Skyping would be the ideal solution for someone like me, but you’d be wrong. Skyping simply combines the stress of the regular phone call with the added distraction of wondering if that hung-over looking apparition avoiding eye contact in the lower right-hand corner is really what I look like.
As much as I like e-mail for business purposes, though, nothing really beats personal contact for building relationships. It has been incredibly enjoyable, these past three weeks, to have leisurely conversations over coffee, wine and the occasional Limoncello, and it reminded me that e-mail may be efficient, but even the most efficient business ultimately stands or falls on relationships.
If I lived closer to my clients I would make a resolution to take them out for lunch occasionally, but unfortunately that is not an option. So I’m starting with my colleagues. I went to my first NCTA meeting this year, and discovered that there are a handful of translators in and around Fresno. I got in contact with them and organized a few informal get-togethers.
I wish I could say we have a thriving Fresno group now, but it has actually not been that easy. Most, like me, are introverts with extremely busy schedules, so getting everyone together in one place on the same day is an accomplishment I think deserves a prize in and of itself. But I’m not giving up yet. Virtual contact is easy; real-life relationships are complex and require work.
If you have experiences you’d like to share about building relationships with clients/colleagues or starting groups I’d love to hear from you!