Brienna and Cassandra, pull free from the persistent claws of death and continue their pursuit of honest consulting. They have learned their lesson with classy brandy and have thus taken up a new vice, play-doh. It is not that they eat it, nor liquify it and apply it to steaks as a salty sauce, no, they roll it…constantly.
Cassandra: I think I like play-doh better than brandy. (She rolls her play doh into a slug.)
Brienna: yes…there is a certain peace to it. (she rolls one slowly into a blue log then very suddenly slams her fist down, flattening the perfect roll before starting again.)
Cassandra: Yes it makes me think about all the consultations that I’ve done. Although I have to admit, not all of them went well.
Every now and then, consultants come to a point where they can go no farther with a client. Cassandra and I have tagged this moment as the ‘failure moment’. While it isn’t technically failure, it tends to give the consultant a similar feeling.
Brienna: The good thing about play-doh, is that there is no failure. If you screw up, you just start again and reform it. I think this method can be applied to consulting.
Cassandra: In what way? I don’t think you can start over an appointment just because it’s not going well.
Brienna: Well, start over no, but reform your approach, definitely. Just as you might reform the play-doh when the dog you were making looks more like a demon grandma.
Cassandra:That makes sense, because I had to do the same thing when I failed in my first consultation. It did not go well…
Brienna: Please Cassandra, tell me more…(she makes a lopsided house, then smashes it with her hand and starts again).
Cassandra: Well a client came in asking for me to review his paper. I looked over his paper and saw a lot of inconsistencies, and when I pointed them out I don’t think he understood. I tried to explain in multiple ways but I think that only made things worse. It could be because he wasn’t a native speaker, but I took it as me not being able to explain my reasonings well enough.
(Brienna picks a piece of play-doh and rolls it between her thumb and forefinger. She looks at it for a second before popping it in her mouth. It is delightful, but alas not the purpose of the play-doh).
(Cassandra looks at her and shakes her head. She thought Brienna would have learned from the brandy, but she guessed not.)
Brienna: Cassandra, what do you think you learned from that experience?
Cassandra: I learned that I should be consistent in my explanations, and if they don’t understand, then just break it down further. I think I also learned that if I feel like I’m not able to help the client then I should direct him to resources that can so that I’m not confusing them further.
(She picks up some yellow play-dohand rolls it, intending to make a pizza but Brienna snatches it out of her hands and eats it before she can finish…a budding and dangerous addiction).
Brienna: When I first started consulting, I always felt awkward telling a client they should look something up or ask their professor about the formatting. It took me about two seconds to get over that. There are some questions that are just too technical for my scattered brain to answer without doubt. The way I figure it, a stylebook can’t lead you astray but a person can. The reason behind this is not simply because a stylebook states straight facts, but because these facts change over the years no matter how solid your grasp is on their concepts.
Cassandra: Its not just about stylebooks either. I feel that we also need a firm grasp on explaining things. Sometimes when you think you’re helping, you’re really not. Part of that is paying attention to the client and their body language, and having them relay back to you what you said so that both of you understand what’s being said. Communication is crucial for a consultant.
Brienna: There are many ways to reduce the occurrence of these moments, one of them being source recommendation. All consultants have experienced, the grammar and format questions and lets face it, we are not walking stylebooks, but we do know how to use them. Along with these moments are the issues of communication barriers and deficiencies. Your story is a demonstration of that.
(With an unexpected need, Brienna shoves the rest of her blue play-doh into her mouth. She chews approximately four times before taking a swallow…a very large swallow. With a gag she keels over and seeing fallen pieces of play-doh masterpieces past, she begins shoveling them into her mouth, heedless of her suffocating.)
(Cassandra watches on in horror, unable to stop her friend from her impending doom. She grabs Brienna and begins to apply the heimlich maneuver. She watches as Brienna spits up all the play-doh she had eaten and slumps down on the floor. Cassandra examines the remnants of what had blocked Brienna’s windpipe with wonder, the gooey but colorful mass formed the word ‘patience’. She took it as a sign that she knew must be put forth in every consultation she has in the future. With reverence, she scooped it into a ziploc bag with the intention of freezing it to inspire future consultants.