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When I meet people whose profession revolves around creativity or performance, I usually sense a kind of sizing up going on. You might think the question they’re pondering is “Am I better than you?” Actually, I think the question seems to be: “Can you add value to me?”
Creative people are often struggling to figure out anything they can do to get their talent noticed. Under these circumstances it is perfectly natural for them to sound someone to see if they can help. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know where you stand with them if you don’t know what’s going on.
If such a meeting does not result in further communication, I may end up feeling as though I have made a mistake, or angered or disappointed them. The recognition, either conscious or unconscious, that I don’t “add value” to someone may make me feel inferior. But that’s not really accurate, and if I don’t recognize what’s really happening, I’ll have difficulty moving forward.
It’s not really about my worth. It’s a kind of creative business transaction. If I think about it that way, I’m less likely to get my feelings hurt.
I think it’s helpful in certain encounters to pre-emptively ask myself, “Do I add value to this person?” For instance, if I meet an actor and we strike up a five minute conversation, I can consider whether I have a script they might like, or a book they’d want to read, or know someone who can help them. If I don’t, I can expect three possible scenarios.
One is that after five minutes of sniffing, the actor determines that I have nothing to offer them, and the conversation ends politely. While not ideal, that’s a typical professional response. Another is that the actor actually wants to keep in contact.
It may be that the actor really likes me and finds value in a friendship with me. That’s great! I have to be careful not to treat that kind of relationship like a more shallow business relationship or I may end it.
Finally there’s the ambiguous possibility that the actor may have taken a “wait and see” approach with me because they think I might have something they need. I have to watch this relationship carefully and not confuse it with a friendship. That doesn’t mean I should be unfriendly, only that I should be cautious about my expectations.
If you have a friend and you don’t know where you stand with them, it might be helpful for you to ask the question: “How do I add value to them?” Perhaps you add value as a nice, loving person in their life, and that’s awesome. If you don’t know how you add value, figuring that out might explain why the relationship is not meeting your expectations.