For the sake of simplicity this article refers generically to all architectural design professionals as architects. This is by no means intended to discredit either Registered Architects or Building Designers, and their similarities or unique differences as practicing professionals.
Effective communication is vital to cultivate a positive professional relationship. Communication is not only verbal but includes non-verbal aspects such as body language and self-presentation. Below are recommendations of what an architect can do to ensure they represent themselves well when communicating with clients to create a positive professional relationship.
Listen carefully and take notes during meetings and discussions
Thorough notes will most certainly become useful later (if not at the time) as people occasionally forget or misunderstand what was discussed in a meeting, especially when under pressure or distracted.
Determine the client’s preferred method of contact, and desired level of relationship. It is important to be both friendly and maintain professional boundaries. This may differ from project to project.
Establish a rapport through open, clear and professional communication
Be sensitive with your use of language, and respectful when discussing potentially personal or private topics. As an architect you are often simultaneously taking on personal responsibility for someone’s life savings, financial future, hopes, and dreams. Progressively discuss the project in great detail to achieve shared understandings.
Our own worldviews, cultural and professional experiences, education, beliefs and values dramatically shape our opinions and perception. We cannot expect that we intrinsically share all of these in common with our clients. By taking the time to better understand our clients wants, needs, and motivations, be will be better able to fulfil their ambitions.
Punctuality demonstrates dependability. Interestingly, our expectation of punctuality varies widely between professions. It is expected that you take a seat and wait to see a doctor, solicitor, or accountant, even though you scheduled an appointment. Regardless of whether you are meeting a client in their home, on-site, in a café, or at your office, you should habitually show up on time, or call ahead if you are waylaid.
You wouldn’t expect a builder or personal trainer to show up to a meeting in a 3-piece-suit, however you would expect an office-based professional to dress far more formally. As an architect you carry the creative flare of an artist, the WHS compliant steel-cap boots of the construction industry, and the entrusted wisdom of an esteemed intellectual profession. Whether you ceremoniously don a black turtleneck, plaid blazer, white-rimmed glasses, or tight-fitted jeans, your attire should inspire confidence in your creative charisma, not cast doubts over your professionalism.
Be true to your word, and treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Not only is this important to avoid voiding your professional indemnity insurance, but everyone occasionally makes mistakes. Show grace and kindness to others in their omissions, and they are more likely to do the same for you. Architect’s primary method of marketing is word of mouth. Encourage positive referrals by fostering cooperative trustworthy professional relationships.
7 tips to negotiate a mutually agreeable design solution:
- Be patient and listen carefully to what your client wants.
- Respect your client’s objectives, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Use active listening techniques to confirm your understanding
- Focus on the project objectives determined in the original design brief.
- Confirm the agreements that have already been mutually reached, before attempting to resolve conflicts.
- Check your ego; focusing more on solutions than contentions.
- Communicate clearly and avoid negative emotional outbursts.