Posted by: Marie | July 8, 2012

(665) No thank you

Post #665
[Private journal entry written on Saturday, August 6, 2011]

A couple of days ago, I received, then responded to, an email from one of my piano lesson clients. In my response, I was very clear that I needed them to change the way they are showing up in the relationship.

Yesterday, I received a response from her:

Marie,

I was surprised by the tone of your email. I agree that the girls need to devote more time to practicing piano and I have spoken to them about it. Regarding attendance, I did mention that Friday would be difficult for us to maintain when we signed up and I was hoping to eventually secure a mid-week lesson.

Unfortunately, lessons on Saturdays will not work with their schedule. They would likely be available for lessons on Friday, but I would be reluctant to commit to Friday because there may be several occasions where they will need to cancel due to parties, play-dates, etc. that seem to occur on that day.

Thank you for getting back to me regarding your availability.

Connie

I prepared – but didn’t send – a response that justified my earlier email:

Hi, Connie –

Thank you for responding . . .

I understand you were hoping to secure a mid-week position . . .

When I have an open spot, I offer it first to those with the most seniority — and seniority is calculated based upon a combination of the number of cumulative contact hours and the lifetime attendance rate. Your quantity of contact hours is one of the lowest of all my clients, and your attendance rate is the lowest of all my current clients. Therefore, as spots have opened up, I have been giving first right of refusal to those with more seniority.

I understand the Friday evening slot was rough for you . . . however, even when we tried the Wednesday night slot, only 60% of the lessons occurred as scheduled. Another 17% had to be rescheduled or we missed but you paid anyway (which I appreciate greatly!) Even adding those two numbers together doesn’t get us to 80% minimum.

Unfortunately, my schedule is so full this year that I’m not going to have the freedom to reschedule as much as I have been able to do before. Therefore, I don’t see how we can successfully make this happen.

I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to work with you and your girls. At this point, it has become clear to me that this relationship is no longer a good fit. I think it is best if you move forward with a different piano teacher. Let me know if you need me to pass along any information to your new teacher.

– Marie

Instead of sending the email to Connie, I decided to take Edward up on his offer to be available to me between sessions. I sent him the following email with the draft text (above) attached:

Hi, Edward –

If it is appropriate for me to ask for some guidance outside of session time, I’d like to hear your quick feedback on the correspondence below (I haven’t sent this last email yet). I would wait until our next session, but I need to respond on Monday, or on Tuesday at the latest. I’d prefer to have some feedback before then. If you don’t feel it is appropriate for you to respond to this via email, that is fine . . . I figured I have nothing to lose by asking . . .

This is the family I mentioned in session today with which I set some boundaries and was waiting for a response . . .

Thank you!

– Marie

Today, Edward responded:

Dear Marie,

Thanks for checking in.

I think you’ve done a terrific job.

Also, I think you could keep it simpler if you’d like (I’ve made some suggestions below).

Either way, nicely done.

Warmly,
Edward

Hi, Connie –

Thank you for responding . . .

I understand you were hoping to secure a mid-week position . . .

When I have an open spot, I offer it first to those with the most seniority — and seniority is calculated based upon a combination of the number of cumulative contact hours and the lifetime attendance rate. Your quantity of contact hours is one of the lowest of all my clients, and your attendance rate is the lowest of all my current clients. Therefore, as spots have opened up, I have been giving first right of refusal to those with more seniority.

I understand the Friday evening slot was rough for you . . . however, even when we tried the Wednesday night slot, only 60% of the lessons occurred as scheduled. Another 17% had to be rescheduled or we missed but you paid anyway (which I appreciate greatly!) Even adding those two numbers together doesn’t get us to 80% minimum.

Unfortunately, my schedule is so full this year that I’m not going to have the freedom to reschedule as much as I have been able to do before. Therefore, I don’t see how we can successfully make this happen.

Sadly, my schedule has become very full, and I’m not able to make that time slot available to you.

I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to work with you and your girls. At this point, it has become clear to me that this relationship is no longer a good fit. I think it is best if you move forward with a different piano teacher. Let me know if you need me to pass along any information to your new teacher.

Knowing that I can’t accommodate your schedule, and that other teachers in town might be better able to, I think it’s best I let you find a teacher who can better accommodate you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be of more help. Of course, please let me know if you need me to pass along any information to your new teacher.

– Marie

Again Marie, either way I think you’re just fine. I think sometimes less is more, as when people have more information, they sometimes take it personally, despite how well you’ve written your response.

Let me know if this helped.

Warmly,
Edward

I was very grateful that Edward took the time to provide a well-thought-out response, which I indicated in my response to him:

Hi, Edward –

Wow . . . yes, I do like the wording you suggested . . . warm yet firm . . . a new way of being that I’m learning from you . . .

My mom and I had lunch together today and I asked for her opinion, as well. She suggested removing the three explanation-laden paragraphs and keeping the rest. She said I was just repeating myself with further explanation and that, if Connie didn’t “get it” with the first explanation, she wasn’t going to get it with a second.

I can see where I am being legalistic with my words, even in the last paragraph. So, I think I’ll pretty much take your suggestions word-for-word . . . I really like the kind tone in what you wrote.

This helps so much . . . thank you for taking the time to help me out with this!

– Marie

And Edward had one last reply:

Dear Marie,

You are most welcome.

Warmly,
Edward

I did send an email to Connie in which I used the exact wording Edward provided. I feel good about how I handled the situation – how I set a strong boundary – how I’m choosing to surround myself with ideal clients.


Responses

  1. Really good move having Edward edit your ‘difficult situation’ email – that would never have occurred to me. Sometimes in an effort to be nice, we over explain and actually make things worse. I like the version you sent out. Blaming scheduling conflicts is excellent when doing business – it lets everyone save face. Did you ever get a response?

    • Hey, Ellen –

      You know, I probably woudn’t have thought to ask Edward for help had he not made a point of telling me it would be okay just the day before.

      No . . I never did get a response. I’m not surprised, given Connie’s personality. I can imagine she was very angry at me. Oh, well!

      – Marie

  2. This is great — wonderful that you took him up on his offer to lend a hand outside of session time, and even more wonderful that you were drawing clear boundaries about who you want to work with.

    • Hey, David –

      It is so great to have created a business large enough to support my preferences and boundaries. I always feel a bit of fear when I “fire” a client, but then I keep telling myself that I’m creating a vacuum with which to attract the clients I really want!

      – Marie

  3. Thank you for sharing this progression of responses. I think it is important for all of us to slow down, tighten our language, and warmly but firmly state our position. This post is a great lesson in how to work toward that goal.

    • Hi, Will –

      Thank you for your supportive input! I am continuously amazed at how many of these “minor” people skills I’m having to learn this far into my life . . . but, I guess later is better than never, LOL!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Marie


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