My Aunt Irene used to take me to her home on the other side of town, when I was very young to give my Mom a break. Mom was sickly. My aunt lived on the rural side of town and she kept chickens. It was fascinating to watch her feed the chickens. She just threw the feed on the ground in the pen and they would come running. Her home was surrounded by woods, so she kept a close eye on me. She let my cousin go out into the woods with his friends, but I could only go with her.
We used to pick blueberries and I enjoyed myself very much. She was energetic and enjoyed life. My Mom was sickly and had to take frequent naps. Although my aunt didn’t work outside the home, she did everything to keep it clean. She took care of the chickens, painted and repaired, mowed the lawn, cooked the meals, cleaned the house – why, she even drove a car! That was unusual back then.
Every time I went to my aunt’s house, she would say the same thing, “Don’t go near the pond!”
There was a small pond in the woods behind her house. All the kids would go there. The boys would tie ropes from tree branches and swing out over the pond and “drop” in to the pond. It looked like fun, but that was for boys only.
Anyway, as an attentive and obedient person, I listened each time she told me and she told me every time I went to visit.
One winter, after Christmas, everyone in our extended family was going to the pond. It had been very cold for about a week and even the adults were excited about going. I received a pair of ice skates for Christmas, but couldn’t figure out why everyone was so excited, but on that Saturday, everyone went to the pond.
Many of the adults including my father had ice skates. I was never really into ice skating, because I was always cold in the winter.
My Dad did a few twists and turns to let me know that everything would be okay. My Mom was home resting. Dad helped me to put my skates on and he told me to walk out to the middle of the pond.
It was as if an earthquake struck me! I knew there was water underneath my feet. A whole bunch of water under there and yet, he wanted me to walk out there as if I was walking on a concrete sidewalk.
I started walking very, very slowly as my sister whizzed past me in excitement. I slowly put one foot in front of the other and about 3 feet away from shore, I got a terrible feeling. Did I feel the ice move under my feet? Did I feel something moving? The answer was yes.
My Dad, who had struck up a conversation with one of my aunt’s neighbors, after we left him, saw the look on my face.
“What’s the matter, Jo Ann?”
After safely reaching the shore, I looked my Dad straight in the eyes and said, “There’s water under there!” pointing down at the ice.
Of course there is, he said. It freezes and makes ice, so we can skate on it.
I was so scared. I came back strongly, “but Daddy, you and Aunt Irene always told me not to go near the pond, because I will drown and now, you WANT me to walk on water. Isn’t the water as deep in the summer as it is in the winter?” I was nearly in tears.
My Dad smiled at me and pulled me closer to him. You know, he said. “You’re right. All summer we tell you not to go near the pond and now we expect you to just walk out there with no fear. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can stay on the shore, okay?”
And I did stay there for the duration of the afternoon.
Everyone learned a lesson that day. The lesson was “say what you mean and mean what you say. “
Communication is key to building trust. I had always heeded their warnings and then suddenly it was alright, because they said so. Dad and I had a long conversation that night after supper about talking things over, explaining what we mean, how certain words have special meaning and the need to look behind the words to make sure you understand what someone is saying. Asks questions!
How did this prepare me to become a virtual Assistant? I DON’T just listen to people’s words. I try to put them into context and figure out, if they’re talking about this one task or if this pertains to the way they want all tasks completed. It was a great lesson to learn, because if I do want clarification, sometimes clients think I don’t understand what they want, but I am actually making sure that I complete the task according to THEIR specifications. Once they realize this, the client relationships are stronger and the chances of error are greatly reduced. We learn to trust each other, because we have great communication skills and we don’t hesitate to question each other about specifics. This is the best way to not only acquire new clients, but to keep them, because your words mean something and you keep everything crystal clear.