To me, being professional is never letting someone know what you really think, when you are at odds with them.
When everything is going fine, you can just be yourself. If you are an outrageous person, perhaps be a lite version of yourself, unless you really know the client well.
But what about when you are odds with some one? For me, that’s when I have to go into professional mode.
I was working on a map for the boating magazine. These are general maps, not nautical maps for areas of interest for boaters. I work a little with the author of these port of call stories, to get all the locations from the story. I’m given a list of all the places they would like to see on the map.
This time around, there were about 5 places that no matter how much I searched I couldn’t get a good location for them.
So I laid a grid down over the rough of the map, which had the locations I could find, and sent a jpeg to the author, asking for the following: to check the current placed locations, a grid coordinate for the 5 locations I couldn’t find, and the correct way to spell a couple of them, because I was finding two different spellings.
It took nine emails, instead of two, for me to get what I needed. The author, who is not a professional writer, couldn’t just give me the information. She had to question what I was doing with the map, and give me her thoughts on how I should do the map, and want to know who makes the choices about the maps.
So I had to take time to answer her questions before she would give me the information. She wasn’t holding out till I answered, you could just tell she was the type that when asked a question, has questions, often unrelated, that she wants answered first.
These types drive me crazy. I’ve dealt with them a lot in corporation. It’s more annoying when your question is direct and simple. You can ask a yes/no question like “Are you going to turn over the manuscript today?” and your answer is, “Did we change the color blue for the cover of the book?” Nothing short of playing 20 questions will work.
So for several emails, I played her 20 questions, having to ask the correct way to spell some locations twice. And then finding mistakes she missed. I cut an paste her text from her emails into the map, so that way I don’t introduce spelling mistakes from typing.
The editor has asked in the past how was working with her. I say it’s fine. I know you might be thinking, but that’s not true, she’s holding you up, she’s questioning your work. Yes, but I got my information, I’m not missing my deadline. So in the end, I was annoyed, I had to play 20 questions, when I could have sent off the map on Tuesday, it’s now going Thursday.
Telling the editor that she can be a game of 20 questions, isn’t going to do anything. If the editor said to the author, “Hey, can you just answer his questions without asking your own” it will probably offend her. As it stands, the editor thinks I’m awesome. If the author ever says anything (unlikely), the editor, who seems already to have issues with the author will think it’s just her.
Sure, I could try asking the author why she needs to knows. With this type of person, that’s just going to open more questions, which frankly I don’t want to answer. I’ve been down that road, and I’ve learned to spot those people who given a too much information, become more annoying.
So I did the professional act, I answered her questions, trying to not give her any openings. When she didn’t give me all the information I needed, thanked her for what she did provide, and politely asked for the information she missed. I didn’t point out the mistakes she missed, included in her original email I worked from. And I won’t tell the editor any of this.