Man, you look terrible.
I didn’t say that to my good friend, but I definitely thought it.
We were out to lunch. It was his first “grownup time” out since his wife had their first baby not long before.
Looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
Hair all mussed up. Stubble on his face. Spit up stain on his shoulder.
It’s been years since I’ve been in the baby phase. But I certainly never looked that bad, did I? I mean, at least I always found time to shower.
I asked him how things were going, and he told me a scary story.
About a week or so after the baby was born, he decided to take the little fella to the store to pick up diapers and the other essentials. First road trip for father and son. Let mom sleep a bit.
Everything was great. Baby actually slept the whole time while he shopped. He relished the “oohs” and “ahhs” from the older women in the aisles as he pushed his newborn along.
Paid for his items and went out to the car. Put baby in the car seat and then the groceries into the trunk.
Got into the car and smiled at his son as he turned the car on. My son, he thought with a smile.
Drove home happy – until he opened the door to get his baby out of the car.
What he saw curdled his blood.
When he had put his newborn in the carseat, he had neglected to buckle him in. He had driven several miles with his baby totally unprotected in the backseat of the car.
The baby was fine, but he was overwhelmed with the what ifs.
What if I had gotten into an accident?
What if he got hurt?
What if he died?
How could I live with myself if that happened?
How could my wife ever forgive me?
As he finished sharing the story, I thought, You idiot! Who does that?! You literally have to move the straps aside to lay the kid down, but you didn’t think to buckle him in two seconds after touching them?!
Then he hit me with this: “I told you this because I always thought you were a great dad. I needed to get it off my chest, and I knew you’d understand and know what to say to make me feel better.”
And with that, I softened.
Memories of the challenges of having a baby in the house flooded in.
Sleepless nights. Continually crying baby. Endless trips to the grocery store. Fear of SIDs and suffocation in the crib. The financial strain. Sacrificing time alone as a couple. Constant interruptions. Around-the-clock care for a being that is years away from ever saying the simplest of thank yous. The burden of responsibility for that little life resting on you and your spouse’s shoulders alone.
I remembered and I empathized.
In that moment I recalled several of my own not-so-hot moments of fatherhood as I was learning the ropes.
I shared them with my friend as a look of relief washed over his face. He respected me as a father, and yet I’d made many mistakes myself. He would be okay. He’d figure it out.
That was a powerful moment for both of us.
As I reflected on the conversation later that evening, I realized the impact of transparency and humility in relationships, both personal and professional.
My friend knew that I wouldn’t judge him (although I’m glad he couldn’t read my mind at first) and that he could not only share his struggles but be encouraged as well.
Isn’t that what you’re trying to do with your clients? Show them that you are more than four walls and a sign? That you aren’t just knowledgeable, professional, and forward-thinking but also trustworthy, caring, and reliable?
That may be achievable with current clients. The trick is doing that on a large scale with prospective clients who don’t know much, if anything, about you.
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