March 20, 2009

Design Persuasion

Design Decisions. We all have to make them. And except for the lucky few of us, most of us have to make these decisions with some type of approval, agreement or acceptance from a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend or roommate. (For the rest of this post, I’ll simply say “partner”)
It’s often difficult to convince your partner of your vision & to come to his or her “senses” and agree with you. 😉 (I have to say right off that I am one of the lucky- my husband may not always agree with me, but he does completely trust me now & even if he doesn’t “get it” at first, he lets me go ahead— to date the only thing I think he’s hated is that white feather wreath.) Needless to say, many of my clients are couples, and many of my friends & family require “2” yes’s before moving along with a project so I do have a lot of experience in dealing with partners who disagree design-wise.
Just now when I was giving my toddler breakfast, I thought of what my husband had told me last night. (Our toddler has gotten into the stage of shaking his head ‘no’ (actually he shakes his head and says “uh-uh” in this strange squeaky little voice that’s very unlike his normal deep, scratch voice- it’s pretty funny but anyway– when we offer him a choice of food.) My husband reminded me that offering Christian 2 options instead of just picking food up and asking him if he wants it works perfectly.

(I remember the same worked really well for my litte sister when picking out outfits to wear– “This one or this one?” not “What do you want to wear?”) Anyway, I’m sure most of you parents out there do this, but I was just thinking today how much it also applies to design decisions.


There are certain clients who want options to decide from, while there are others who want to know what I think is the best option & present only that option to them. Some clients LOVE to see options & others are overwhelmed by them. Some clients want to be very involved & others want you to make most decisions with approval from them. When presenting design decisions to your partner, I think it’s often the same thing. You have to figure out how your partner is most receptive. If you bring something home & have it all set up, will he or she freak? not notice? love it because now they can see what you’re talking about??
I think it’s important for partners to make decisions well together. To be efficient. To make design decisions based on the issue at hand and not because he or she wants to win or have a compromise or whatever… Most of the time there’s one partner that is the design-lover (I know there are those cases when BOTH are & there are usually AMAZING results) and it’s probably the partner reading this blog right now. She or he is constantly brainstorming, looking for ideas, creating design solutions & presenting them to his or her partner. Now, the partner, can be receptive, hesitant, unwilling to spend the money, gung-ho, completely against CHANGE (a biggie) and a lot of other things when presented with a new design idea.
Now you can’t change your partner’s personality, but you can change how you present your design ideas to him or her. Think of the way you can present your idea that will most likely get you a positive response. Figure out what type of decision-maker your partner is & present your ideas accordingly.
I have seen cases when presenting two options & showing both sides of the options & letting the partner (or client) come to his or her own decision (which is usually yours) works. I’ve seen cases when both partners need to be equally involved & if one partner is not there at the spawning of the idea, he or she later is against the idea because of his/her lack of involvement. (I think in these cases it’s really important if you notice something like this going on to just bring it up & say what you’re noticing so your partner can realize that he/she needs to focus on the issue at hand and not on his/her negativity towards the idea.) Some partners need third party opinions. (There have been cases where I’m called in simply because couples cannot agree between themselves.) There are (lots!!) of cases where one partner hates change. And then there are are other parties that do better when the plan is simply told to them & they don’t have to be bothered with the decisions/ details.
The important thing here is to figure out what type of design decision-maker your partner is & how you can present design options so that they’ll be accepted. Here are some decider- types I came up with:


1. Does your partner need to be presented with options & be an active decision-maker? [If so, present 2 options you like.] or2. Do options scare him? [ Show him or her your plan.] 3. Does he or she need to think they came up with the idea on their own?? (Oh good luck here and please watch “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’— “The man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck who can move the head any way she wants it.”)


4. Is money the determining factor? [Present your idea and explain how you’ve made it with finances in mind: “I LOVED this one but I found this very similar one for $60 less. What do you think?”]
5. Does your partner simply want to disagree with your ideas? [ Again, all kidding aside here, there are bigger issues going on here & I really think being up front about your partner’s disagreeableness is important for your relationship. If you feel that this is going on, the best thing is to be open about it & try to get to the root of the issue here so you can be happier… but sometimes it can be as little as someone having a bad day(really, don’t present design decisions when someone’s not into it or has had a tough day.)]
6. Does your partner hate change? [ This is another tough one. People get into routines & get used to things and a lot of them don’t like change. I think sometimes the best thing here is make it clear to your partner how important it is to you and how much you need this change.]
7. Does your partner just believe something or have an opinion about something that is kind of illogical? [This is a tricky one… sometimes people form opinions/ beliefs about things they don’t really know much about based upon one situation or hearsay. “So and so hated having marble countertops… I’ll never get them.” or “I don’t like all-white bedding.” or “I hate flowered material.” Sometimes people haven’t seen all of the options or heard all sides of the argument. I think when you are presenting here it’s best to start out with, “Now I know that Johnny didn’t like his marble countertops, but read this article on the pros and cons & see if you think they might work out for us.” or “I know you’re against all-white bedding, but it’s going to be easier to clean because we can just bleach it. We can also add in some color with pillows and blankets so it won’t feel sterile.”
or “I know you don’t usually like floral fabrics, but check out this fabric. It’s not the traditional floral you would think of & it’s not feminine at all. “]
8. Does your partner just think you don’t “need” something? [ First make sure that you really do “need” it before proceeding & then explain why you think you need it & why it’ll improve things & what it’ll do for the space.]
The important thing is to be really respectful of your partner & to make sure that you & your partner don’t take opposing sides. Sometimes when someone gets it in his/her head that they’ve made their decision & it’s final, there’s no winning. Or at least not happily. He or she might always look at that lamp & be reminded of the battle & hate it. I’ll never forget that I asked my friend to take a look at a lamp I was returning. I had purchased it for a client who didn’t want it & I called her over & she loved it. She brought it home & when her hubby came home (who is VERY involved in design-decisions.) didn’t like it. I felt terrible & was like “I’ll take it back.” and she was like “no,” hahaha and so I left & told them they could decide & let me know. A week or two later, I was over & it was still in the living room with the tags on it and I asked her what the deal was and she said they were still arguing. Eventually she won but I still sort of feel bad and kind of laugh when I see it. (And they are a really happy, healthy couple, it was just the way the design-presenting went down. “Look what I did honey,” is never really going to fly with them.)
So anyway, figure out how you and your partner work together. What’s the best way to present a design idea for him/her to be most receptive? What type of decider is your partner?
[I also have to say I’m sorry about all the bad-grammar: “them” and “they” when referring to 1 person but him/ her got really wordy!!!] *images from real simple & fabric & furniture from calico corners


ps- STILL waiting to hear back (3 days! arg!!) about our offer!!!
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