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Stop Telling Your Clients They’re Beautiful. Do This Instead.
Okay, I only sort of meant what I said there in the title. Oops.
You know how sometimes you say stuff you only half-mean?
Like when I’m watching Parenthood and I jab my index finger at the TV and say “I can’t stand how Jasmine and Crosby handle their arguments, I’m never ever watching this lousy stuff again,” but them I’m right back there watching the show again next week?
Yeah, I sometimes I only sort of mean something.
Here’s what I really mean:
Have you ever had someone walk up to you and say “Oh, you look so cute today!”
And you said “Thank you,” and maybe even felt flattered. But then your brain went into a tailspin that sounded something like: “Yeah right, I’ve got circles under my eyes, my kid puked on my shoulder this morning, I bought this old thing in the clearance bin four years ago…..”
Our minds can create nasty hailstorms of defensive doubt in the face of a compliment.
But have you ever had THIS happen:
You’re at a party hovering over the cheese platter. You hear your name from twenty feet away. Your ears perk up the way they only do when you hear your name unexpectedly in someone else’s conversation.
You slide your feet a little closer and catch the rest of the sentence:
“(___Your name here___) rocks at being a mom (/dad). I drove through her neighborhood yesterday and saw her wearing a superhero cape chasing her kids in the front yard. They were laughing and it was like something out of, I don’t know, a commercial or something. And did you see the cupcakes she brought to Madison’s party? They were incredible…”
You’d probably blush a little. Smile. Feel proud. Then try to be cool and pretend you weren’t eavesdropping.
It’s the same basic experience as before (someone is saying something nice) but your reaction is usually different.
It’s not that someone telling you that you looked cute or beautiful can’t make your day. It completely can.
But let’s admit it – sometimes we use words like “you look cute” or “you’re so beautiful” in a bit of a superficial way. Not bad superficial, just light conversation. Positive things to fill space. You’re beautiful, she’s beautiful, the person down the street is beautiful, the last client you had was beautiful.
Though true, these words get bandied about a lot – to the point that sometimes their meaning can feel diminished.
(And as an aside, if someone has poor self image, simply telling them they look beautiful doesn’t always reassure them. Sometimes, especially if they disagree, this can have the unintended effect of making them think the opposite even more strongly. Simple, one-line compliments unfortunately do not usually diffuse years of bruising self-beliefs.)
But what about when someone offers an example?
One that shows, rather than tells, that you’re beautiful?
Offering evidence why you are beautiful/amazing/a good parent makes it really hard for you to completely dismiss what they’re saying. You can’t really say they “didn’t mean it.”
Because that compliment came bundled with Cold. Hard. Proof.
It cannot be disputed that you did, in fact, chase your kids in a superhero cape. And yeah, now that they mention it, you’re pretty proud of how hard you worked on those cupcakes.
It can be hard to swallow positive adjectives about ourselves. It’s even harder to see the good things we do when we’re busy ruminating on this morning’s spilled makeup or our kid’s undone hair.
But when someone concretely points out wonderful things you have done, those adjectives suddenly feel a little more real. Even in the midst of doubt, we say “Well yeah – I DID do that! Maybe I AM those things!”
(This is, incidentally, one way therapists work with people to overcome negative beliefs. Rather than the therapist wasting time arguing “You are TOO a good parent,” they help the client find examples that illustrate their good parenting. That helps someone internalize the positive belief for themselves, rather than a therapist trying to force a belief on them.)
The example gives the adjective a fighting chance.
When you write about your clients, don’t just say they’re beautiful. Don’t just say they’re amazing.
You’re a photographer – your job is to SHOW them these things.
In photos, yes. But it doesn’t have to be photos alone.
You can do it in words, too. (They can complain about how their chin looks in photos – but not your words.)
You can hand them a written bouquet of all the things you observed them say or do that made you form that “beautiful” impression you have.
That dad? He mastered the art of hair braiding so he can do his only daughter’s hair when his wife is out of town on business.
The woman in these headshots? Totally overcame a paralyzing fear of public speaking to lecture at the local authors’ group.
This business owner? She raised two children and sewed all those baby hats between night feedings to build her Etsy business.
These are things that make them beautiful, interesting, impressive.
If you build your post using these examples, rather than your own opinions (no matter how gushing), the client will be deeply moved.
To them, it’s supremely flattering to have you point out actual evidence of their amazingness.
It shows you paid attention. It shows you really care about them. It shows you took time above and beyond the superficial norm to search for their beauty. It shows that you aren’t just spraying them with glitter because you want to keep them as a client – it offers evidence that you really, truly see them as they are. And most of all – it makes it even easier for the person to accept their gorgeousness.
Send them into looking at their images with that in mind already.
THAT, friends, is customer service.
So no, I guess I’m not asking you to strip ‘beautiful’ from your vocabulary.
I’m asking you to show it in writing just like you show it in photos.
P.S. If you’re not a photographer, this still applies to you. If you write about companies, don’t just say they’re “awesome clients.” Talk about what makes them awesome. I see you sitting there – you’re not off the hook!
Irresistible Words is here!
P.P.P.S. Are you new to Psychology for Photographers? Welcome! Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of How Clients Make Decisions About Money on your way out.