Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't Burn Bridges (unless strictly necessary)

When it comes to a job - any kind of job for that matter - there are always going to be people we like and people we don't like; people we click with and people we can't wait to get off the phone with. It's pretty normal. And when people rub us the wrong way, it's totally human nature to cut ties and move on.

Maybe that works for some professions, although I can't think of one at the moment. But for a freelance writer/editor you can't afford to cut ties. In the future you never know what position that person may be in, or what project they might be in need of, or what pitch you are trying to send out. If you have a run-in with a health editor at a small town paper you might think no big deal, well maybe she'll end up the EIC of a major mag in the area and you're on her shit list - Not Good.

I recently was contacted by a client from several years ago who I assumed did not like me much, by the abrupt e-mails and sudden lack of communication. But she admitted to being busy and now needed my editing help again - was I interested? Um, Yup. Count me in.

So when dealing with difficult people remember these simple rules.
  1. Do not send an email (make a phone call) in anger. Things will be said that can't be unsaid.
  2. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.
  3. You never know what happened to them that day, week, year to make them like that. Maybe their 11-year pet dog just died, maybe their spouse was diagnosed with cancer, who knows. Always give someone else the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Keep your communication sincere and business like. Remember proper salutations, etc...
  5. Sometimes it's helpful to butter them up a little. Don't lie, but find the person's good quality and mention that.
  6. Give it time. Maybe this relationship is something you need to put on hold (not in an I'm-ignoring-you way) and then return to later.

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