Hold My Bagel

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Things I probably shouldn’t publicly admit!”

Last time, we covered my newly-discovered bulk seed secret. Today, I’m going a little deeper into self-analysis, and the results involve lamps, bagels, and my mom’s labor and delivery doctor (just… go with it, okay?).

So, here’s something you should about me:

I’m a chronic evangelist.

If I’m eating something delicious, within seconds I’ll be passing it across the table and telling you you’ve GOT to try it. If I clean out my pantry and it feels amazing, please let me explain why you should also clean out your pantry. If I make a great recipe, I have to text at least four people the link. I love to recommend TV shows (Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever!) and books (loved The Most Fun We’ve Ever Had!), cute clothinghome decorgood writing, life hacks (here, fix your boring email signature!), and random items from the grocery store (have you tried the Good & Gather Larabar dupes? So delish and also pretty!).

I’m like the opposite of a hoarder; I can barely enjoy things fully without sharing them.

I don’t understand people who have secret recipes or won’t reveal where they got something. I don’t really understand people who have secrets in general. I love it when people ask for my opinion because… shocker, I ALWAYS have an opinion. I was born with opinions. (Doctor, you should try dark-rimmed glasses — they’d really compliment your bone structure!)

If you need a restaurant recommendation, advice on whether those pants really work with that shirt, or help deciding between two lamps, I’m your girl. I can’t fathom a world where someone asks me to pick between two things and I can’t decide. That lamp will be SO great with the pattern of the throw pillows! The other one is weird! 

I’ve tried to figure out why I’m like this (because… it’s weird, right?), and I think it’s because I find joy in making something a little better than it was before, encouraging someone to do something they’re clearly GREAT at, or helping them discover something I know they’ll love… not because they’ll thank me (really!), but because I know it’ll help them / make them happy, and I want, more than anything, to help. #enneagram2


Here’s the problem:

I’m also kind of terrible at keeping opinions / suggestions (mostly positive ones!) to myself. I genuinely want people to be happier and things to be better, and wouldn’t you know, I pretty much always have an idea of how (I think) that should happen.  

Second problem: this came as a bit of a shock, but… not everyone WANTS an opinion. Not everyone wants MY opinion. I’ve had to learn that “I’m trying to decide between these two lamps” is not the same thing as “Jennifer, please explain why I should choose this lamp” and “Here is this problem I’m having right now” does not equal “I’d love to hear your wise and nuanced solution.

If I’m not reading the room or you don’t know me, I can come across as annoyingly prescriptive, overconfident, or overbearing, and as someone who doesn’t like to NOT be liked, that is super problematic for me… and for whoever I’m probably annoying.

Recent example:

My sister-in-law, Gracy Olmstead, is a talented writer + journalist. She’s been in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and also recently got a book deal and wrote a real, legit, actual book. (So cool! I, obviously, always thought she should write a book…) I briefly saw her last week, and she made the honest mistake of showing me the book cover options she’d been sent by her publisher. There were four concepts, and guys, I know you’re shocked, but I had opinions.

“Hmm, this one looks too much like ___ (another popular book)…”

“I’m not sure about the graphic treatment here. Kind of feels like random stripes instead of a sunburst?”

“Oh, I like this one!”

“….but I kiiiiiiiind of wish that the font was a little stronger, or maybe that they’d chosen a different style of house… or wait, hey, I’ve got an idea!”

“Here, hold my bagel.”

Poor, unsuspecting Gracy stood alongside my now-forgotten bagel as I whipped out my computer, opened Photoshop, and thirty minutes later, had redesigned the cover with a stronger font choice and slightly tweaked graphic. Was it better? Well, yes. Did I realize later that, uh, she hadn’t actually asked me to totally redesign it? Also yes.

Sigh. Sometimes the best thing I can do with my opinions is… shut up and listen instead.

Thankfully, when I texted her later to apologize for getting into hold-my-bagel-mode without ASKING first, Gracy assured me she wasn’t at all offended and actually appreciated the fact that I was obviously interested and invested in what she was doing. (Whew.) It made her feel like I CARED enough to try to help with something she also obviously cares deeply about.

Which brings me to you… and also the point of this email (yes, there is one!):

After a few client consults this week, I’ve realized one thing. On a professional level (and often a personal one), we LIKE it when qualified people give us their honest thoughts and strong opinions.

We actually APPRECIATE being told what to do (or at least what we should consider doing) when it’s from someone we trust because it makes us feel like they care about us and our success… and that makes us trust them more.

When you aren’t sure if the top really works on you and the guy manning the dressing room says, “Oh, WOW, that’s great!” it feels GOOD. Heck, when they’re occasionally honest and say it’s actually a little wonky, that also feels good.

And I think, with our brands, we get to the point where we just… can’t see if the top fits. We can’t pick a lamp. We spend too much time in the vacuum of our own thoughts, and we need someone to just tell us if things are working, the fonts need to be stronger, or the sunbursts look like random stripes.

And I think, maybe — maybe I was born with too many opinions (and Jeff was, too!) so we could be that someone for you. The person who says, “YES, this site is great for you, but THIS font is kinda wonky, and here’s what you can do a little differently…” or “You know what you’re great at? THIS. This is what you’re really selling!”

It’s what we do best. It’s what we enjoy more than anything else. And maybe THAT’S how this weird, chronic evangelist thing can be used for good?

Lastly, a quick note of encouragement.

Own your opinions. YOUR audience cares about what you think. They want to know what you like. They make decisions based on reviews and form connections based on shared interests and experiences. They want to be directed, and sometimes they NEED the affirmation that they’re making the right decision (or help to make one to begin with). They want to feel like you’re interested and invested in what they do. And not only are you interested (we hope!)— you’re the expert! So don’t hesitate to be the expert… it’s helpful, yes, but it also builds incredible know / like / trust capital and adds value, both of which are vital to increasing sales

Example: If you’re a photographer, share clothing you’ve seen that looks great in photos, offer a free consult to tailor a photography package that fits your client’s lifestyle, talk about ideas for date nights, do an IG story series of practical, flattering poses, or just suggest the movie you loved last weekend. (Note that I’m not talking about political or other polarizing opinions here… we got enough flack for not liking warm chocolate chip cookies!

When someone enjoys something you’ve recommended, it’s just one more step to viewing you as a PERSON, not just a business. They build trust with you and want to solicit more of your influence in their life. That’s good for you! It’s good for them, and it’s good for business.

Thanks for coming to my therapy session.

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