As a designer, I was re-reminded of a critical component of the client-advisor relationship when visiting my brother and his family in Denver recently for my nieces’ high school graduation. 

Among all the events and celebrations, my wife and I went to dinner with my brother and his wife at a new trendy eatery in downtown Denver on our last night in town.  During dinner, they wanted advice on replacing their traditional cabinetry and surround in their family room with a more updated look to include a flat-panel TV, some cabinetry, and mantel/hearth. 

After asking a few quick questions regarding their wants and needs, I immediately had a vision for what I thought would work stunningly, and I launched into a lengthy description of layout and materials – including metal/glass cabinetry, led lighting, sliding cabinet panels, honed stone for the fireplace, and backlit art glass behind the new TV. 

It sounded perfect to me – but I finally looked up from my plate and noticed the furrowed brow and quizzical, confused look on my sister-in-law’s face.  Asking her what was wrong revealed my mistake: I was so busy firing off ideas and explanations of my vision I didn’t pause long enough to actually ‘listen’ to what she needed, or give her time to ask questions about what I was saying.  After my long description, a picture was indeed painted in her head, but it was clear that it wasn’t ‘my’ vision – but her interpretation of it (which later didn’t sound so great)!

The lesson was clear: a conversation has 2 parts, and in my rapturous state of blurting possibilities, I neglected to stop and check in with my counterpart to ensure the ideas were transferring understandably…  Communication is a give and take – especially this kind of complex interaction, and we, as designers and builders, need to take time to make sure all parties are on the same page. 

While pictures are worth a thousand words (and for this reason we use photos and drawings throughout the design stage of our projects), words can also work wonders – when a true conversation is held!  I’ll remember that next time I’m so excited about the possibilities while conversing with a client…

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 Love, love, love it - our green kitchen remodel will make an enormous difference.  

~J. & E. F., South Plaza, Kansas City, MO