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Picking a pro

This is the kind of thing I'd usually talk about on Packing Heat, but since I'm not doing Packing Heat anymore, I might as well think aloud about it here.

We writers need the services of other professionals both as businesspeople, and as human beings. Unless you have some very specialized training, it's not a good idea for us to install our own toilets, cut our own hair, edit our own books, or (in my case) do our own taxes. But sometimes we hook up with a professional in what should be a mutually beneficial arrangement, only there's something subtly wrong with the relationship. You feel bad after you meet with them. Inadequate, somehow. You feel guilty for asking them to do the work you've both agreed they would do for you, and that you're paying them for. You start feeling anxious days, or even weeks, before you need to meet with them.

And by you, I mean me.

I had a dentist who made me extremely uncomfortable. (In fact, every dentist I've ever had in my life was hideous except one in Chicago 20 years ago who was nice.) Finally, when my insurance dropped him...back when I HAD dental insurance...I remember thinking, "Oh boy! Now's my chance to get free of him!" The dentist I switched to is like a dream! He's smart and funny, and all the work he's done on my teeth is wonderful.

Okay, how about my accountants? My first accountant was great. So great that he developed a numbers-system and used it to win the lottery and retire. My second accountant...that was one of those awful relationships I was talking about "you" having a few paragraphs up. So I decided I wasn't going to give her any third chances. I prepared all week long and met this morning with my third accountant...and he is great! I'd been re-inventing the wheel every three months to pay my quarterly taxes, and he says he can do my 2010 return AND prepare my estimated quarterly payments for 2011 and all I need to do is mail them in. No re-figuring everything every three months.


He's in the same building as my good dentist. Coincidence? I think not.

So anyway...here's my thought on picking a professional to help you out, whether it be with your plumbing or your cover art or your typesetting or your taxes. You are in charge. It's your business or your body or your affairs. There's no reason for you to feel guilty or inferior, and if for some reason this other person manages to make you feel this way, switch! I wish I had switched dentists earlier. The good, funny, competent, smart dentist was three blocks away from the creepy one who whispered all the time and always acted like I was in need of a full mouth transplant. I wish I had picked the current accountant instead of the bad one the last time I was in the market. I had a call in to each of them and ended up going with the bad one because she returned my call first, and seemed intelligent when I met with her. Yes, I realize in psychobabble-talk, no one can "make you feel" anything, but I do know this: sometimes we come away from dealing with certain people feeling worse than we did before.

When you see this pattern, walk away. You're in charge. You.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
Great advice but sometimes really hard to do. It is sort of ingrained that when you are paying someone to do X, whether to clean your teeth or clean your toilet (well, maybe not that one, but an actual skill that you need some further education to do), that they are the EXPERTS. That you have to believe they know what they are doing and therefore if you feel ookey or weird about it, that you just don't undestand how it works. They have X number of years of training and Y number of clients so they MUST be good and I need to disregard my own misgivings because how the hell would "I" know what a tax consultant is supposed to be like. It can be really hard to say "Yes, you're the expert but I don't like you. I'll find another."

Thankfully I've been pretty lucky on the healthcare front although I'm not loving my dentist quite so much. Fortunately it's a practice so there are three dentists and I just make sure I ask now to see my daughter's dentist. He's nice and cute. My dentist wanted to pull my wisdom tooth that had a small cavity because it was easier for her than digging into the back of my mouth. There is nothing wrong with the tooth, it was not a problem, she said it was more work for her to fill it. Ummm. Not my problem, so I did reschedule with my daughter's dentist and he did it with no complaining and it didn't seem all that difficult to me. Go figure. So I was glad I had the option to just choose another dentist in the same practice otherwise I might have caved to her "expert" opinion.
Mar. 7th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
I think you eloquently hit the nail on the head as to why we tend to put up with a professional who's a bad fit for us! Thank you for articulating it so darn well!

Pulling a tooth rather than filling it? *shakes head*
Mar. 7th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Good for you! Finding competent help is huge. And it's okay to choose someone else, even if the person is competent but their personality just isn't a fit. Now I need to tell myself that and fix a few little problems around here. (My dentist got dropped from my insurance too...)

And as far as the psychobabble crap goes, maybe no one can make you feel anything, but people who aren't pleasant and want your business should be thinking twice about trying, and -- the big AND, that kind of assertive training talk, while technically true, is often abused by those who are looking for an excuse to bully you because for some reason it makes them feel better that you're ultimately responsible for your reaction to bad behavior.
Mar. 7th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
You have insurance? Quick, go get a full mouth transplant ;-)

Yes, I know what you mean about the "no one can make you feel anything" adage getting hid behind by bullies! I'd like to revisit that concept with different wording someday.

I heard the concept explained better by a podcaster who said he was out walking with his daughter when he saw a dead cat in the gutter. As he was trying to figure out what to say to her about it, they came closer, and he realized it wasn't a dead cat at all, it was a wet paper bag. And he realized that he'd gone through all this internal turmoil, and nothing external had changed. It was always a paper bag, had always been. Just his own thoughts, perceptions and reactions had changed. (Merlin Mann's the podcaster. I'm a Merlin fangirl.)
Mar. 7th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
I can totally relate to this, and lemme tell ya: once you get the gumption to stand up to a service provider about shoddy treatment, it's way easier to do it again! (And again!)

I had a yard service once that had been expressly told, verbally and IN WRITING: do NOT prune the camellias, don't touch the camellias, don't even *look* at the camellias. What happens? Sure enough, I come home one night in late October (just when camellias are setting their buds for the January/February bloom) and the phuckers had pruned most of them off.

Needless to say, I got on the phone and had the satisfaction of saying "You're fired, and here's why." And no amount of their backpedaling and "we're so sorrys" helped. Not one bit. They were so fired.

Service people should provide the/a service with professionalism, clarity, and reasonable speed. If not, fire them.
Mar. 7th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
That's so scary because it's a living thing you trusted them with. :(

I think you're right, it's easier to do it again once you have a taste of it.
Mar. 7th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
That makes so much sense and is so difficult to do. I think part of the reason that we (I) put up with shoddy service is because it is so stressful trying to find someone to do the work in the first place. I rule out a lot of places by their attitude on the phone - if the receptionist or whoever answers the phone is rude or talks down to me then I don't want to employ them because I would have to deal with that attitude every time I rang.

Some trademen are physically intimidating - probably not intentionally but I do have my own problems to deal with! - and it is difficult to be assertive when you are scared.
Mar. 7th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'm totally agreed that a receptionist's attitude, or maybe a shoddy website or badly done print ad, will stop me from doing business with someone. While servicemen don't intimidate me in that way (I'm sure they could, but the ones around here are just not creepy-macho like that) they seem to act all put out when I need them to do something, as if I'd just asked them for a favor. I don't get it. Am I paying you, or not?
Mar. 7th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
You are so right, Jordan. Dentists, especially! Oy. I used to do almost anything to get out of dental appointments (to my detriment). Until...I found my current guy. And when I did, we made the deal up front. "Look," I said, "I'm getting older and set in my ways. I smoke (yeah, I know) and drink coffee and that's probably not going to change. I don't floss every damn day and I probably won't ever.. And I want nitrous oxide on every visit. In return, I will commit to coming in every four months for a cleaning and check. Do we have a deal?" I tell you - nowadays, I almost look forward to going!

Same with any other professional with which I deal. I'm hiring them!

Need to add that I loved GhosTV - though the ending, oy! My heart! I'm still digesting, but I intend to review at Amazon - thanks for another riveting episode with two (no, three. Hi Crash!) of my favorite guys.
Mar. 7th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
I saw my new good dentist had a "for sale" sign in his lot and got really upset and thought he was retiring, but it just turned out his building was being sold and he moved a few minutes away. WHEW!

Glad you liked GhosTV! I'd love a review whenever you get time! The ending will probably result in an extra book in the series, so it's a good thing.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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