I’ve never really sympathized or understood my doctor and lawyer friends that lament about free friendly advice. They’re always complaining about how hard it is to go to a dinner party because they are peppered with professional questions by ‘friends’ looking essentially for free legal or medical advice. I guess the reason I’ve never taken it seriously is because I see our professions as the ultimate icebreaker. When there’s nothing else to talk about- you naturally ask about business-time. It’s what most people feel comfortable talking about because they (hopefully) know the subject really well and won’t be left standing awkwardly at the chip bowl staring uncomfortably at one another looking for an exit strategy – Oh look! There’s Martha. Over there in the bathroom. I’m going to go see if she needs a hand.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that they seem to have an air about them that they are the only ones that have anything of value to offer for free, which is why people gravitate to them over Hors d’ oeuvres for this magical advice. This is where I find the whole situation comical. You can see their eye rolls when people ask just the simplest of questions. ” Oh so you’re a doctor. What kind of doctor are you?” It’s at this point where they pretty much clam up. Body becomes tense waiting for the impact. And wham they’re mumbling into their puff pastry trying to squirm away. But nothing invasive has even been asked. No one has pulled down their pants and asked them to perform a rectal exam. They haven’t lifted their shirts to show off a newly minted rash, so why the nervous, standoffish behavior? Is it all in anticipation? They’re just waiting for the proverbial pants to come off?
As usual I try and relate this to my own life in order to figure it out. When I think of my business I can pinpoint exactly what it is that bothers me in these situations. It always comes back to freebies. No one wants to be used. It goes back to high school, shit, maybe even kindergarten, when you find out that the only reason the girl beside you is talking to you is because she wants your new crayons, but not your pink one. Of course I was always crayon girl, so I don’t really know how it feels, but I can pretend to sympathize. Really I think I am on to something here. I may have even changed my thought process half way through. These doctors and lawyers were likely nerds in school. They now have a ‘status’ job and they want to pull rank. That’s all it’s about.
At any rate. I wasn’t a nerd in school or in life, so this theory does not apply to me, but the freebie thing still works. I hate it when people call me up because they ‘know me’ and they know I ‘do websites’, so they feel somewhat entitled to free time from my company to help them with their business. It’s rude. It puts me in an awkward position. However, unlike the doc and lawyer friends I know, I have no problem saying this to their faces, voices or in any form of digital communication. This is how I say it: Oh you have a project?! Great! What’s your budget? Problem solved.
I find that as soon as you get the money elephant out of the room, the air is clear. I guess if I was a doctor and didn’t want to give away free advice I would just say, ” Can we talk about your erectile dysfunction in private at my office please? Here’s my card. Call the office for an appointment.” It would be at that point that I would expect that they would feel embarrassed because they weren’t even asking about ED they were just whining about a sore knee, but I think they would understand my point.
Anyways, I think the moral of this story is that nobody wants to be used and everyone wants to be loved for who they are and not what they do. That’s why from now on at dinner parties- I will formally introduce myself as a sandwich artist. Cold cuts anyone?