For most of us, pleasing people is the name of the game.
As a freelance service provider, that is why we exist: to please the people that pay us.
It’s how I grew up as a little boy in the Netherlands.
As the son of a minister, I always had to be on my best behavior and do what was expected of me. Children should be seen, not heard, and only speak when spoken to. Pleasing my parents and making them proud became my way of life.
That meant not questioning their authority, eat what they put in front of me, wear what they wanted me to wear, and be quiet when the grown ups were talking. And there was a lot of talking in the parsonage.
As an inquisitive and talkative child, this regime was not easy on me, to say the least. I wanted to engage and be social. I wanted to participate instead of observe.
Most importantly: I wanted to be heard.
Don’t we all?
My young parents were still learning how to run a church, and I think they were in over their heads, especially after the birth of my little sister. So, having a noisy son who always wanted to know everything about everything, must have been challenging. But I was a child. I couldn’t help myself.
After testing the rules over and over again, and being at the receiving end of numerous spankings, I finally learned my lesson.
Sit still. Shut up, and do as you are told.
In a way, this strict upbringing worked well for me. My life was like a coloring book. As long as I colored within the lines, I received praise. I was the good child, but I had to make sure to color the trees green and the sun yellow. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Deviation and disobedience lead inevitably to punishment (always administered by my mother, while my father made himself invisible).
Now, at a certain age, kids are supposed to grow up and rebel against parental authority. I left that job to my sister. She was the wild child, and very good at it, I might add! While I buried myself in books and music, she acted out in every way possible. Coming home late. Fooling around with bad boys. Drugs and drinking.
Meanwhile, I remained the pubescent, immature people pleaser. Mister goody two shoes who had no spine. Perfectly socially acceptable, well-adjusted, and never daring.
How did I stay that way, you may ask? By avoiding confrontation while fostering resentment, deep inside. It’s a coping mechanism many of us know too well. It works until someone really starts pushing our buttons and boundaries, and we can’t take it anymore.
Just wait for that pressure cooker to explode!
And when it does, we not only respond to what triggered us in the first place, but to years of keeping things inside; of sucking things up to keep the peace.
I truly feel for the person at the receiving end of this emotional outburst!
Now, why on earth would I be bringing up the past, in a blog about freelancing and voice overs? Who do I think I am? Sigmund Freud, or Dr. Phil McGraw?
I’m taking you back to my childhood because in my work as a coach I have found that many of us have evolved very little from the time we were a child. It usually manifests itself in our relationship with perceived authority figures. Authority figures such as the clients we serve.
After years and years of growing up, many of my students discover that they’re still the same obedient people pleasers they were as little kids.
Sit still. Shut up, and do as you are told.
One way this manifests itself is in a subservient relationship with clients. If a client wants things done the next day, they deliver the next day, no matter what. If a client wants to pay them in 90 days instead of in 30, they accept 90 days. If a client changes the script after they’ve already delivered the previously approved VO, they record the new text for free. And so on and so forth.
People bend over backwards just to avoid confrontation and rejection.
I see the same pattern when it comes to rates.
“The client said he had a limited budget, so why should I ask for more?”
As a coach I always challenge my students. The other day, I said to one of them:
“How do you know how much a client can or cannot afford? Are you psychic? Do you have someone inside the organization? Did you even ask for more money? If not, why not?”
“Well, I’m afraid they’ll give the job to another talent. I want to maintain a good relationship.”
I told him:
“How can you predict with absolute certainty how the client will respond? I mean, out of the hundred plus people that auditioned for this job, they picked you for a reason. That should give you a bit of leverage, don’t you think?
What you are offering is not some kind of cookie anyone can bake; something simple that disappears as soon as you eat it. What you’re about to record will last. It has the power to move minds, and inspire people to take action. Only you can say it the way you say it. That’s why they picked you, for Pete’s sake!”
One of my students was in a pickle because she didn’t allow enough time to finish the eLearning module she was recording.
“Why don’t you call the client and ask for an extension?” I suggested.
“Oh, they’re not going to like that,” she replied. “This is my first time working for them. I need to show that I can handle the job they gave me. Otherwise they’ll never hire me again.”
“Here’s my assignment,” I said: “Call them up. Tell them where you are with the project and how much time you need to complete it, and see what they say.”
A day later she called me back and said:
“I’m so relieved! They gave me until next week to finish it. It turned out they weren’t going to listen to it for the next couple of days anyway, because they’re so swamped. The project manager told me they’d rather have me do a good job and take more time, than to rush things and make mistakes. She even thanked me for keeping her in the loop.”
Those two students had one thing in common. Because they assumed to know how the client would respond, they avoided a confrontation by not asking for what they wanted. Here’s the thing.
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
I wasted years of my life being overly concerned about what other people might think. It was the little boy in me that still was intent on pleasing his parents. The boy who always found an easy way out, to avoid conflict and confrontation.
The trouble was, playing it safe usually didn’t get me what I really, really wanted and deserved. I had to learn that it’s okay to gently and respectfully put my foot down, and ask for what I wanted.
When I finally started to speak up for myself, I discovered that the confrontations I dreaded in my mind, hardly ever happened. It was just my very vivid imagination of a worst case scenario that held me back.
These days, the people pleaser in me still plays pictures in his mind. But this time around I make sure to imagine the BEST things that can happen, instead of the most terrible outcome.
Remember this: whether you imagine the worst thing, or the very best thing, you never know how it’s going to turn out. But if you visualize a positive outcome, you’re more likely to be in a positive mindset, and take positive action, leading to a positive result.
All I ask of you, is to try this approach for the next week or so, and experience the difference it makes.
But don’t do it to please me.
Do it for YOU.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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