April 2, 2015 by Dymphna 24 Comments

Does the plumber even care?

Plumber working on sink smiling

I remember quite early on in the journey I got an email from the plumber:

Have finished other jobs ahead of schedule. Can make a start on your bathroom this week if that works.

I was shocked. (And no it wasn’t about a tradie finishing work ahead of schedule.) It just felt like such a curt email.

(This was still early days in the internet. Emails have gotten a lot shorter over time.)

Terry had done a few jobs for me on a couple of properties around Brisbane. We’d shared the odd joke here and there. Got along pretty well.

I wasn’t about to get an invite to his kid’s graduation, but I thought we were at least a coupla rungs up the friendliness ladder from ‘business associates’.

Why was he being so rude?

My first thought was to check myself. Maybe I had offended him somehow. Maybe that joke about his dog hadn’t gone down well. Maybe he’d misunderstood me and thought I was talking about his wife.

I got that tight feeling in my gut you get when you get busted at school doing something naughty. Like I was feeling guilty. But I just didn’t know what for yet.

And so I told my friend about it. She was surprised.

“He seems like such a nice guy. What did he say?”

“Well, it wasn’t what he said. It was what he didn’t say.”


So I showed her the email. Look.


“Dymphna. Is that it? I’m not expecting to see “My dearest Dymphna” or anything, but a little ‘Dear’ wouldn’t go astray would it?”

Have finished other jobs ahead of schedule. Can make a start on your bathroom this week if that works.

“What straight to business? No, ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘how are the kids’, or ‘I saw you out the other day and you looked fabulous in those slacks.’ Nothing. It’s like he doesn’t even care.”


“Rgds! He can’t even be bother spelling it out. Would it hurt you to throw in a ‘Cheers’? At least give me a smiley face.

My friend is wetting herself.

Turns out when it comes to work relationships, there are two types of people. The touchy-feely types (like me.) And the no-mucking-about types, like Terry.

The touchy-feelies put a lot of emphasis on the personal connection. In their worldview, the business relationship is built on a foundation of personal connection. That connection needs to be acknowledged. It needs a bit of tender love and care.

The no-mucking-about types just cut straight to the issue. They won’t waste your time by pretending to care about your kids. You’re busy, they’re busy. Lets just get down to it.

Different strokes for different folks.

What’s interesting though is how hard it is for the touchy-feelies and the no-mucking-abouts to understand each other. Unless they’ve consciously thought about it, or read about the differences in some enlightening property blog, they just can’t get where the other is coming from.

It’s like when you’re hungry. You just can’t imagine that everyone else isn’t hungry as well. Or when you’re full, you just can’t understand why your friends want to go out for pizza.

And so to the touchy-feelies, the no-mucking-abouts just come off as rude. Surely they understand how important it is to check in with you. Surely they remember that you sprained your ankle a few weeks ago, and the kids all came down with the flu. Why would you deliberately ignore that?

And to the no-mucking-abouts the touchie-feelies just come off as flaky. I’ve got stuff to do. Why are you wasting my time asking about my wife’s kidney operation?

And it’s tempting to write it all off as one of those Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus types things. But studies show that that just isn’t true. It transcends gender lines. You’re just as likely to find touchy-feely men as you are no-mucking-about women.

(I think the management scientists have different terms for these things, but I don’t have time to look it up. I’m a busy woman.)

As I keep saying, the property investment story is a people story. You need to be able to do your sums, and it helps if you know how to swing a hammer, but if you can’t work with people, you’re in trouble.

There’s a lot of relationships to manage. There’s negotiations with buyers and sellers, bank managers, accountants, real estate agents, tradies…

You’re going to come across all sorts. It’s not just touchy-feelies and no-mucking-abouts. There all sorts of splits. Intuitives, thinkers, big picture, detail orientated, image-driven, judgers…

Management Science comes up with new ways to box people everyday.

But for me, I’ve found a good rule of thumb is just try to relax out of my ego a bit when I’m dealing with people.

The first part of that is not taking things personally. If someone sends you a terse email, maybe they’re busy or have had a bad day. Maybe it’s just their ‘style’. It’s not about you. It’s never about you unless you make it about you.

The other trick is to just let yourself be a bit flexible. Have a clear view of what you want the relationship to achieve, but not how the relationship is going to be. If you’re chippy feels a need to spend 5 minutes showing you pictures of his kids, just go with it.

Take a step back from how you want things to be, and let the relationship take its own shape. When both parties are willing to make it happen, the relationship will find its way eventually. You don’t need to force it.

You might have a view of how the world should run, but I guarantee someone out there will disagree.


Any one got any wisdom about how to deal with all the different people in the world?

Any stories about making a difficult relationship work?