You Are Good At What You Do: That's Your Problem!

You are good at what you do. That is your biggest problem!

If you are an entrepreneur, a contractor, or go to authority on your job, being good at what you do could be your biggest communication problem.

Of course I am not advocating being incompetent. We should all strive to be good at our jobs; to improve our craft, art, or business. But we have to be cautious of one thing in doing so.

Being good at what you do gives you confidence. But that confidence can easily look like arrogance to your clients, customers, or colleagues if you are not intentional about using your communication skills to show humility and respect to everyone.

I recently met with a service provider to see if he'd be the right fit for what I needed. I had no knowledge on the subject and he was recommended to me by another business owner. I went to visit. I knew from the moment I walked in this was going to be a difficult meeting.

From the moment I walked in? Yes, from the moment I walked in.  Did you get that. First impression counts. Especially to potential customers.

"It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression..."
 Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17, 592-598.

I wasn't greeted warmly. In fact, I got the distinct impression that my being there has interrupted his day and annoyed him.

Bottom line? I felt unwelcome... but I was there and I needed help. I explained to him my situation, emphasizing that he was recommended to me by one of his current clients. He sat behind his desk with a look that said. "What do you want?"

After prying information out him, he came to a quick conclusion about my business. It was the wrong conclusion. I was completely frustrated. I thanked him for his time and left vowing to find another service provider.

What was the problem? He was good at his job. He had such a deep level of his trade that he assumed, I was knowledgeable too. He was a successful small business owner who forgot what it was like to start out in business. He had forgotten how he initially over-serviced every client in the early because he was passionate about his work and he was grateful for clients. He forgot about the cold calls, the networking, the years of struggle before he even had a client who could refer his services.

I tell my clients who work in IT and computers this all the time. In your world, bits and code are everyday language. In the world of those who call the IT help line, they are lost and frustrated. 

Maybe he was having a bad day? It happens. But when you are meeting a potential new client or working with someone who has NEVER worked with you before, you have to establish 3 things from the start:

1. Rapport.

You establish rapport with body language more than anything. Make eye contact. Smile. Give a firm, not lethal, handshake. Come from around the desk and remove obstacles. Uncross your arms. Lean forward. Use a welcoming tone of voice. All of these non verbals SAY I'm glad your here. Your clients and colleagues want to feel welcome.

2. Knowledge

Demonstrate your competence and offer advice. Show that you have worked with similar clients before. Offer insider tips that they wouldn't know of. "Most don't know that ...." Give specific advice to your client; this builds trust. 

3. Value

Value is more than a cost quotient. You not only demonstrate your value with facts and figures but also with communication skills. By showing empathy and understanding. By putting people at ease. By being friendly. By showing interest in people...not their business.

Has being good at your job become your pitfall? Ask yourself a few questions:

Do you build rapport or do you ooze annoyance that others don't get it like you do? Are you rushed? Frantic? Overwhelmed? 

Do you demonstrate your knowledge or do you keep your knowledge to yourself? If someone is coming to you, don't treat them like knocking on your door is the greatest gift they ever gave themselves. 

If good treats people like crap. And mediocre treats people well. People will walk away from good and go to mediocre.

Do you demonstrate value in ways that can't be measured in dollars and cents? People want personalized service these days. To quote the theme song from NBC's show Cheers, people want to go "where every body knows your name...(dun dun dun dun)... and they're always glad you came." Do you make it a point to show customers that? Do you even know where to begin? I can help move you from repelling your customers to inviting them. 

Contact me for a FREE consultation

That interaction prompted me to write this post to business owners, contractors, and hard working people.

In summary, because you are good at your job:

1. You have to be careful not to come across arrogant to your customers or potential clients. You know your work. You are good at it. You don't have to remind your clients at every turn. Focus instead on putting them at ease and trying to solve their problem.

2. You also can't be impatient with your clients' ignorance. Ignorance in the true meaning of the word means lacking knowledge. Your client or customer is coming to you because they think you have what they need. Show the client how working with you is an experience that values them.

Remember compassion:

You once were just as ignorant on the subject as your client or customer. You studied and got better. The client is coming to you because they want to be better too. Don't penalize them for that. 

Remember why you started your business in the first place: 

It started to help somebody. Don't push away the very people without whom you'd go out of business.

Remember to speak in laymen's terms: 

Save the jargon for the trade association. Those who can demonstrate technical knowledge in clear simple terms will go farther than those who try to impress with big words.

You have been doing your work for years..that is why you are good. Don't let arrogance and inattention to the details of communication keep you from growing your business and reputation.

Have you ever had a professional talk down to you or belittle you? 
Tell me about it. Leave a comment! 


  1. Julia, this is a fantastic article! For me what came to mind was when I was a manager for the basketball team at the University I went to. I was always curious about learning how the plays worked and how to read different offenses and defenses. I legitimately wanted to learn. So when I had the opportunity to hang out with any of the players or even some of the coaches I'd ask questions trying to get them to share or teach me. And more often than not, they wouldn't do it.

    They were too close and sharing with someone else that didn't understand was frustrating and/or tedious to them and not worth their time. They were almost too close to it to understand how to really teach someone who knew nothing about the subject. They looked at me like I was crazy for even asking those questions.

    This article is not only a great reminder to keep yourself aware of your work and what you are teaching others, but also an eye opener!


  2. Hey, Julia. I was doing a little snooping around on your blog, but this article is great! I have kind of an usual job, where sometimes, legally, I can't communicate with the customer in some ways. I have always kind of tried to work around this, because I don't want to come off as arrogant, as you mention in the post. The funny part is, I tried so hard to not be arrogant that I started giving a 101-class with each encounter! I work with my wife, who--shocker--told me to knock it off! In business, it is so hard. You don't want to come across as arrogant, but sometimes people believe they know more about your profession than you do. You have to explain/teach, but you can't start a 101-class, either. Bottom line, like most things in life, for me, it turns out to be about balance.

  3. I've found using this approach with my tutoring students works fantastically. I start off with a friendly greeting, and then go on to listen and demonstrate my understanding of not only the subjects, but also what parents and students are dealing with in today's educational climate. I rarely have to discuss pricing and value of my services since they know the cost upfront and feel much more comfortable paying me since I've demonstrated the first two points.

    Great way of breaking this down, Julia.

  4. Ryan, as you point out, it doesn't take a long time to make a potential client feel welcome and confident in choosing you and your service. Thanks for chiming in.
    By the way, what do you tutor?

  5. Oh a little bit of this and a little bit of that :-). I mostly focus on K-12 math and science, but also do SAT prep, writing, as well as some college courses. I find that most students benefit significantly from looking at problems a different way or organizing their thoughts and approaches. In that case the subject matter is less important and I rely on my experience with other students to guide me.

  6. Hello Julia,

    I've found asking good questions allows me to get to know the person. People want to know that we care and value them before they will buy or be on our team. Starting that process in the first interaction allows us to lay a solid foundation of friendship and trust. Great thoughts in this post!

  7. I liked this a lot. It's not often you hear words like 'humility' and 'compassion' in conversations about how to advance in business, sales and services. I don't work in those sectors but I've been on the receiving end and it just can't be underestimated how big a deal the relationship the vendor establishes with you is.

  8. Hi Dan,
    I am so glad you stopped by and left us a very insightful comment. Thank you!

    I wonder sometimes if as business people we get so anxious about making the sale that we forget that the person sitting across from us is more than a means to an end. Come back and chat with us soon!

  9. Glad to share:)

    I think your right, the pressure of getting the sale can cause us to forget about building the relationship.