Meet Them Where They Are

How much time do we spend wishing things, places, and people weren’t as they were? I have wished Daylight Savings Time would either go away or become permanent. I have wished snowbirds would stay off of Florida roads in winter.  I have wished various people, and animals, in my life were nicer, neater, quieter, smarter, thinner, earlier, safer, fairer, healthier, mellower, and saner than they were at that moment.

Come to think of it, I have wished all of those things for me, too.

Of course the difference is that I had the power to make myself many of those things, but absolutely no power to shape anyone else to my own desires.

In my younger banking days, clients would call me with questions, and I was put forth by my employer as someone ostensibly with an answer. I was the Answer Queen.  In meetings, I tried to get to the question at hand as quickly as possible so I could show off (what I thought were) my brilliant answers. This left no room for the client to demonstrate their own brilliance. I missed out on getting to know what they wanted, needed, aimed for, or feared because it felt safer to stay inside my own knowledge bubble. In doing so, I was not budging from the place where I was comfortable. If they wanted to be a customer, they had to meet me where I was. Not surprisingly, some decided to pass.

After rejection, then cynicism, and some personal life lessons, I learned that it was far better, but harder, to meet people where they are. To do so, I had to accept them there, and not try to budge them anywhere else. Rather, by backing off, shutting up, asking scary (to me) questions, and seeking to understand them, I found that a new conversational space opened – one that we both could step into and feel safer.  The more actively I listened, the more possibilities, opportunities, and brilliance showed up. And voila’ – sometimes, decisions and outcomes appeared that had not occurred to either one of us before.

It turns out people can in fact get nicer, neater, quieter, smarter, thinner, earlier, safer, fairer, healthier, mellower, and saner sometimes, if we are willing to step out of our own comfortable place, and meet them in theirs.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Elizzabeth D

    Nice article however in the ending as I read (if we are willing to step out of our own comfortable place, and meet them in theirs) I pondered what does this really mean? When you are the person who does step out and meet them….but in return their friendship does not meet yours? What then?

    1. Holly

      Thanks Elizzabeth – great question. In my experience, in the case of a friendship, if their “comfortable place” is, say, self-absorbed, I have to evaluate whether that friendship is where I should be putting my energy. In the case of a client/professional relationship (which I don’t think is what you asked), I would have no expectation that the client would leave their comfortable place – that’s where the professional should let them stay.

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