If you think it’s easy to ask for help, think back to your last home remodel
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You know what I’m talking about: You think 2 weeks is a reasonable time to redo your kitchen cabinets, appliances and flooring. After all, you worked with a kitchen planner and you have a plan. Worst case, it will take a month, so why not plan on having that new kitchen by Thanksgiving when the whole family is coming over? It’s mid-October! OK, late October. Alright, October is almost over.
Your contractor, a veteran of many, many, many, many kitchen remodels. He knows your kitchen could be functional by Thanksgiving, if all goes well. “All goes well” is not entirely under his control. It’s not under yours either, making it improbable you’ll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner in your new kitchen. But it could happen and everybody likes a happy ending.
So you sign a contract and the work begins.
Early on, you notice that it’s taking more of your time than you thought it would.
It’s messier, noisier, and more complicated. You weren’t prepared for how it would feel to have your kitchen dismantled and hauled to the dump, or to have strangers under foot all day, every day. You begin to hate the word “gut,” and the phrase “down to the studs.” You’re toughing it out because it won’t be that much longer.
Then, something goes wrong.
The cabinets you love turn out to be somehow wrong. Or they’re back-ordered. Or the wrong size – or all of these. Or the refrigerator you researched online has been discontinued and the replacement is too big. A change will have to be made to your carefully conceived kitchen plan. Two weeks have come and gone. You’re getting tired of washing pots in the bathtub. Because of the delay with the cabinets and refrigerator, the contractor disappears for 2 weeks, tearing out someone else’s kitchen. Someone who was luckier in their choice of cabinets.
You are officially stuck, and the clock is ticking.
You have guests coming in 10 days, an unfinished kitchen, no cabinets, no refrigerator, no completion date, no contractor and no time to pick new cabinets. The project is stalled. You feel helpless. Your early enthusiasm for this remodel has been replaced by insomnia and a persistent facial tic.
This is exactly what it’s like for your client to come to you for help.
I know what helps me when I’m asking for help. I think these will work for your clients and colleagues too:
- Matter-of-fact calmness in the face of setbacks. I experience this as steadying. (“It won’t take long to install the cabinets once they arrive.”)
- Openness to learning, and quick admission of mistakes. Let’s me know I too can be human. (“I wish I hadn’t assumed you knew what I do. Next time I’ll ask.”)
- Reassurance that I am the client and my needs are paramount. Let’s me know that I’m in good hands. Very soothing. (“I want you to love this. We’ll work until you are satisfied.”)
- Reality checks on what is typical and necessary. I feel more comfortable asking when I know that my helper has limits, and will save me from mistakes. (Putting the search field in the upper right hand corner is what users expect. I recommend leaving it there.” And: “I’ve never seen this before. I’ll need more time to get it fixed, say two days. I’ll need to charge you for the time.”)