The Business of Show Biz: Dropped the Ball
Friday, January 8, 2016
By Velina Brown
Q: I would like to do a better job of building and maintaining my business relationships. I guess you could call it a resolution for 2016. The problem is that I have dropped the ball with people that I very much want to work with, people who have offered to help me or have simply suggested that I keep in touch. But for some reason I froze, and didn’t follow up; it’s a problem I have. Is there a way to pick up where I left off with them that doesn’t seem weird, or do I just have to give up on those relationships now that I’ve let so much time pass?
|Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: It’s interesting and frustrating, the resistance that pops up around maintaining communication with folks in the biz. We often are afraid of being a pest or a bother, or of seeming desperate because our desires and dreams are so strong. Maybe we’ll just overdo it and turn off the person with whom we most want to connect. The fear of someone saying, “Hey stop contacting me!” or just ignoring you altogether can make you freeze. Therefore, it’s important to recognize this is just inner critic craziness. I’m talking about the voice inside that makes you question yourself, warning you that you’re about to make a fool of yourself when you are about to do something that really matters to you. The higher the stakes, the stronger the resistance. Steven Pressfield wrote an amazing book about resistance called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I encourage anyone who struggles with resistance—which is just about everyone—to read this brilliant swift kick in the pants. I keep it nearby at all times.
Sure, it is possible to be a pest if the only time folks hear from you is when you are aggressively contacting them about something you want, and then the rest of the time there’s dead silence. But if you contact the person, as they have asked you to do, and mix business updates with life updates, showing an interest in them as a person without taking up too much time, you can actually build an authentic relationship with them fairly quickly.
In your specific situation, your goal is to pick up a connection with someone who has asked you to “keep in touch.” So you are not being a bother to do so. If they were being authentic when they made the request, then they would probably still like to hear from you. How to break the ice is the question.
“Actor’s advocate” Dallas Travers has a great workshop, called “How To Say Stuff”; in it, she shares all kinds of helpful ideas for saying things that may initially feel awkward in a way that is genuine and effective. One of her sayings is: “The solution is in the problem.” If the problem is that you’ve dropped the ball and feel like you’ve waited too long to get back in touch with someone—then that’s exactly what you say. If you were to try and pretend that you didn’t drop the ball, it would make your attempt to reach out to them awkward. However, if you address the “problem” right off the bat, it gets the weirdness out of the way. For example, you could say in an email:
“Hi, [Name]—Happy New Year! I hope this note finds you well. I know it’s been way too long since I’ve touched base with you. It is my New Year’s resolution to do better at keeping in touch. So I’d like to reconnect and give you a quick update.
Careerwise, I’m currently [fill in the blank with what you’re doing] and lifewise, well, I’m [fill in the blank with an activity, trip or event you are excited about].
I know you are busy, but I hope we can schedule 10-15 minutes to chat on the phone sometime soon. I would love your advice on [whatever it is you want to accomplish]. I just know your perspective would be helpful.
In the meantime, here’s to a great start to 2016!”
Something like the above addresses the fact that it’s been a while since you’ve contacted them without dwelling on it, and then gets right to the point, which is that you want to reconnect. Henceforth, go ahead and stay in touch so that you don’t repeatedly need to write “I’ve dropped the ball” notes. And remember, we’re all people. Just treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated and it will be all right.
Take care. Happy New Year! And stay in touch. Okay? I’d love to hear how it goes. :)
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.