As I´m now on the point of becoming a freelancer again after a 3,5 years stint as salaried full-time web developer working exclusively for one company, I just conducted my first counseling interview with a new prospective customer. Well, as I did work freelance before, it´s actually not the first interview I ever did, but -- seems as I honestly underestimated the difficulties of having been "absent" for that long and then taking it up again, and the main difficulty I struggled with during the interview´s initial stage was :: I´ll have to relearn my previously (1999 - 2003) existing ability to mediate facts in a *comprehensible* way !
Working 40 months for one company definitely does shape and improve your communication *habits*, but can be all the time you´d ever need to have your general communication *flexibility* ruined :: talking to the same people over and over, and also repeatedly talking about the same matters leads to some sort of "addiction symptoms" :: after a while you know your guys and they know you, so whatever complex matters you´re talking about, you can be sure that your familiar "intranet audience" has by now learnt to understand what you´re trying to tell them, and you develop a reliable gut instinct related to who´s even capable of "reading between your lines" in situations when you´re not able or willing (the usual "bad day" ;-) to communicate yourself that well.
Well, it´s funny to see how your well-trained and previously successful "communication reflexes" all fail when trying to apply them to your new prospective customer during the initial counseling interview. Fortunately the lady and me were both smart enough to quickly get over the initial and mutual "who´s that, and what does he/she talk about ?" stage of confusion and find a common denominator -- however I had to struggle with both having to "find other words" and, honestly, the intuition that all my accumulated expert knowledge (this includes probably irrelevant attributes like a "Community Expert" status and coding skills etc etc) as such doesn´t mean a *little thing* if I can´t communicate my stuff on a "beginners level".
Well, after all I managed to get my "message" across by trying to put myself in my customer´s shoes ("if I were her, wouldn´t I think this geek has his heads in the clouds ?") and reconsider my communicative approach -- but this experience has taught me something valuable by making me notice some simple matters of fact :: it seems that the *real* professional is someone who succeeds to avoid going strong with all his expertise regardless of the circumstances, and it seems that only a real pro will be able to develop a sense of awareness by downplaying his trained "I´m a pro !" figure and rather act responsive to the one who´s actually sitting there with you and seeking help on what matters *him* the most.
Well, on a far less declamatory note :: let´s just learn to save up the bragging for situations when it´s really appropriate :-)