Knowing the difference can save your life. Okay, maybe not literally. But it definitely can make a lot of your relationships better. Maybe not easier, but better for sure.
So what do I mean by serving vs. pleasing?
In my experience, most people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to please people. We want to make them happy. We want them to like us. We want to be seen as the good guy.
But does this really serve them? Are our words and actions really in their best interest, or are we trying to soothe our conscience?
For example: a potential client inconsiderately flakes out on a meeting last minute. Maybe it was an oversight or they had a legitimate emergency. But most likely not. Now most people would immediately jump into salvage mode with a placating barrage designed to mollify the offender. “No problem, we can reschedule! I’m here whenever you’re ready. Anytime 24/7.”
In essence letting them off the hook.
Is that pleasing to the client? Yes. We’ve put their mind at ease. But did we really serve them? Or just make it easier for them to do it the next time—to us or someone else.
Now I know what you’re saying. “But I have to keep them happy. I need their business. I need their money!” But is that completely true; can you know that for certain? Remember, every business transaction is a two-way street. It is an exchange of goods. The client needs your service as much as you need their cash. The reason they need it is because true service is genuinely acting in their best interest.
As a graphic designer, I have had clients request some utterly ridiculous ideas. But in my heart I knew it was wrong for them—so I created something different. And I had to fight to help them see the bigger picture and to choose the new designs I created for them. Not out of ego (at least not always), but out of sincerity. Because deep down I knew that what I had designed would best serve their needs.
And the real secret? Your best, ideal clients will appreciate and thank you for it. They will sense your genuine caring. And that is hard to argue with.