Your answer, can make you or break you.
I’m a massage therapist by trade, 15 years in the field. I just moved to a new town and I’m feeling stiff and sore from lugging boxes upon boxes to my 3rd floor apartment. I can use a massage. It will be good to meet the local talent.
Last week I picked up business cards from around town. Today I started making phone calls to the massage therapists. Maybe I’ll be lucky and find a few folks who are interested in trading.
Mostly I get answering machines and leave messages. It will be interesting to see who calls back and how long it takes them to respond.
I actually spoke to two women. The second lady was very cordial and seemed excited about the prospect of doing a trade and getting to experience “new hands.” I’ve never met this woman, but she is someone I already feel I can trust my body to.
The other woman I happened to catch is a different story. I explained the situation. She curtly dismisses me. She says, “I’m already trading with other people, sorry I’m not interested.” This is fine, I can certainly understand. But it seems from the tone of her voice that she is suspicious of “new competition”
I continued to try to connect.
I go on to explain that I am also interested in promoting local massage therapists. My idea is to create events where practitioners can participate and promote their work—“I’m not jumping into the market as competition. I’m interested in finding massage therapists to promote.” I say somewhat apologetically, as if I need to appease her. This does nothing to help calm the situation.
Eeek! Can of worms, can of worms.
Her response: Events like what?
Now, from another person this question would have simply been an inquiry, a conversation starter.
From this woman, the tone of voice-the question sounded like an accusation. To be fair this is my perception, not fact. And to be fair to myself, I have keen intuition.
I know that my call is innocent. I have nothing to apologize for. I want to be helpful, I want to be friendly. My intention is to share massage and meet new people in my new community; especially people in the profession I’ve been working for 0ver a decade. I do have ideas on how to promote other massage therapists, while encouraging community health and my own professional aspirations. Nothing to apologize for here.
What happens next is not pretty. I suddenly find myself engaged in a losing scenerio and on the defensive.
The woman begins to rapid fire machine gun questions at me
Her: Where did you go to school?
Me: (sinking feeling as I respond) BSSI in Helena
Her: How many hours do you have?
Me: (thinking: wait a second…how did this happen? This is not nice, nor fun) “Wait a second,” I say, my jaw tightening, “I’m not on trial here.” “Why don’t you tell me about yourself? How many hours do you have, where did you go to school”
Her: I’m just trying….
Me: (I cut her off- She is trying to size up her competition, so I’ll get to the point) “Look I do good work, I have 750 hours of training, My background is in Tui-Na, Seitai Shiatsu, Thai Therapeutic Massage, Swedish and Deep Tissue. Is that good enough for you? “How ‘bout you” I ask again curtly. (I fin myself speaking cranky to a woman I’ve never met. It feels gross.)
** I have to reel in my attitude, this does not feel good nor is it helpful.
Her: Ummm….Bozeman, I have 700 something hours of training.
Me: Uh, huh, well listen. (I’ve stopped listening to her) If you are interested in doing a trade sometime, my name is Renee and… I rattle off my phone number.
I let myself be pulled into a ridiculous game in which I have no interest in competing.
I end up feeling crappy about my response. I should ‘a, would ‘a, could ‘a myself for the next hour or so. Then let it go. It’s a waste of time.
The note I write next to this woman’s name –“Yucky.”
Undoubtedly, we will run into each other at some point, this is a small town. One thing is clear; we each gave the other a funky first impression.
The point of my story is this:
Quick! Ask yourself….is this person really my competition? Really?
It’s easy to make a good first impression. Be nice, be curious.
Making a bad first impression can difficult to recover from — maybe impossible. We never know who we are connecting or disconnecting with. We never know how the future will unfold. Who might the person we are speaking with turn out to be — now or in the future. Viewing the other person as competition, will make a yucky first impression and can take us out of the game.
So, tomorrow when you run into someone in your field who wants to pick your brain or share their work, you have a question to answer and only a moment to make up your mind. Is this person really your competition?
How will you choose to respond?