One of the things that I love most about my work, is when a client needs me to interview someone for their project.
No matter where I go in my career, I still get the same excitement from writing down someone's story. Whether I'm sitting with Stefano Gabbana in a luxury hotel in Dubai, or with a nail technician telling me about how she wants to help her family back home, I get the same thrill about getting to the heart of their story. I hate it when they reel out a phrase that their PR has so obviously crafted for them, I'd much rather they tell me the truth about how they almost went bankrupt or why they decided to leave their business and home country behind.
While no two interviews are ever going to be the same, over the past 12 years, one message has come up time and time again. Be nice. That's it - just, be nice. It's such a short phrase, just two words, two syllables. And yet, it can be deceptively complicated. Yes, it is easy to be nice, in theory. But when you wake up to a stream of immigration-tinted Facebook vitriol, or you're fed up with your living situation, or someone doesn't say 'thank you' when you hold the door open for them, being nice can almost be a challenge. Like, why should I be nice, if no-one is being nice to me? Aside from the obvious answer - if you're not nice, why should they be nice to you? - being nice is proven to have a positive effect, not only on those around you, but on the way you feel too. Being nice means no guilt when you say 'no'. Being nice means your brain no longer feels confused and/or angry when that usually annoying person ducks their head around your door asking if you've got a minute, because you've already told yourself you are NOT GOING TO COMPLAIN TODAY. Being nice can open doors that you had formerly assumed to be closed. Being nice lets your mind off the hook by refusing to get bogged down in the same sad story.
Running a close second to 'be nice', is 'be real.' And they work so well together. Being nice isn't about being a doormat - and when you remember to also be real, that feeling of being taken advantage of is less likely to appear. You can be nice and be real; say you're sorry that you can't make an event and wish that person success on the day - you're not sacrificing anything, you get to stick to your own schedule, but you're not just ignoring them. It's the tiniest thing.
The last time I had to be real was when I met a new client; I so wanted to work with her, so much so that I was willing to start working with her throughout my six week holiday abroad. I knew I could do it - that wasn't the issue. The issue was, should I really be committing to someone new when I have such an amazing experience ahead of me? As I discussed what I could do with this new client, inside I was telling myself 'no, wait.' Mid-meeting I relayed my thoughts - a rushed job can result in imperfections, confusions and upsets, on both sides. While a couple of years ago I might have thought the client would just walk away and find someone else, that didn't happen. I got to enjoy my holiday and now I'm starting on a fresh working relationship.