What They Want versus What YOU THINK They Want

Have you ever bought a gift for someone that you thought the person would love that got a lukewarm reaction? Have you ever cooked a special meal for someone that you thought the person would rave about that ended it being half-eaten? Have you ever told a joke that you thought the group would find hilarious that resulted in groans?

We have all made miscalculations where something we put forth lays an egg. We put things out there with good intentions, but sometimes the reaction is not what’s hoped for.

When this happens, what should you do? I think the two main choices are: change your approach or quit trying. I would suggest you quit trying only in extreme circumstances. Or when what you’re delivering is so radical that it’s avant garde.

One way to change your approach is to tailor your offerings (gifts, meals, jokes, work, etc.) to the wants of the other party. Of course, determining the wants of the other party is not always easy. For instance: you say to your spouse or friend, “What toppings do you want on the pizza?” They say, “I don’t care.” Then, when they open the box and find pineapple and anchovies, they say, “WTF?”

In the business world, trial and error works sometimes. But generally, a bit of research is called for. Ask the questions that will give you the answers you need. Listen and observe diligently. If your best client or customer happens to mention she’s turned vegan, don’t give her a cheese and sausage gift pack for Christmas. If a prospect tells you he doesn’t open emails with attachments, send your proposal as the body of the email, not as a Word file or PowerPoint.

If you are a creative person, stay creative. Do work that pleases you, work you can be proud of. But try to determine what will work to accomplish your purposes (and those of your client or customer). Don’t take it personally when something you poured great effort into gets shot down. This happens to creative people all over the world, every day.

You will have experiences where you deliver just exactly what is wanted and called for—and for some reason it does not connect or does not work out. Think of all the scripts in Hollywood that writers wrote years ago that are great but have never been produced, for whatever reason.

Most of us will continue to produce some work that, for one reason or another, is not given the “thumbs up” we desire. Maybe it needs a small revision. Maybe you need to blow it up and start over. Make stronger efforts to have a good idea what is wanted and needed. Sometimes such guidance can paint a clear path. But not always. Keep trying.


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