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What would you tell this person at this point?

July 18, 2016

A contact messaged me on Linked In.

The contact is a social worker and asked to pick my brain about building a private practice. The contact was interested in hearing my thoughts.

I offered the person to phone me directly and provided my phone number.

Two months later the contact messaged me again indicating “we” haven’t been able to connect and was wondering if it was possible for me to share my thoughts through messaging.  I was asked if there was anything I would do differently in hindsight and was told that experience is the greatest teacher.

I offered that developing a private practice takes much effort and that one shouldn’t squander an opportunity to speak directly with someone who offered to be helpful. I asked what the contact would do differently now in hindsight.

I received this reply:

I see that you’re asking me to have called you. I understand it would be easier to speak than to write in the moment. However, you seemed to be very busy, and I assumed this would be a more convenient method to communicate. I also have some holidays planned soon, and I wouldn’t be available to speak. Under the circumstances, I don’t think calling you would be wise, and I wanted to follow-up with you. If you’re able to share your thoughts on here, I’d appreciate it.

What would you tell this contact at this point?  Please comment below.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. On rare occasion, I am speechless.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Linked In

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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  1. Bessie Vlasis permalink

    If I was interested in opening a private practice and had the opportunity to speak to someone directly for advice I’d call in a flash. I have a not for profit organization that supports children and families on bullying and mental health issues and support and I always welcome any experienced insight.

    Bessie Vlasis Bully Free Community Alliance Sent from my iPhone


  2. brileymoore permalink

    I would tell him/her that you’d be happy to provide your written advice for a fee. Much like most professionals provide at bookstores around the world. After all it is your intellectual property they are asking you to publish even if it is in a more relaxed format. I think you were extremely generous to offer to speak with them without charging for your time. 😃

  3. A comment from Linked In:

    The decision to build a private practice is significant and requires careful thought and planning. It is impossible to conscientiously provide information without speaking to the individual and further understanding the nature of the practice, goals, vision, etc. At the very least, when providing information, it is a reasonable expectation that you have a sense of who you are communicating with.

    When faced with similar requests, I have advised the requestor that in order for me to fully address and provide thoughtful, expert information, a telephone conversation is most appropriate. I inform that this will allow us to engage in an informative, two-way discussion and I am better positioned to answer any questions they may have.

    If the individual still remains unable or unwilling to communicate by phone, I politely advise that perhaps another individual may be able to assist them. I will not commit to providing any information without a telephone call as I need to understand and be assured of the validity and authenticity of the request.

  4. From Facebook:

    You are too kind Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW, I wouldn’t give the person the time of day! If I had the opportunity to speak to you, I’d jump at the chance! You were more than generous.


    If they were legit, they would call you. Sounds like they want to use your written words as content for their blog or website.


    This individual doesn’t have enough drive to commit to a private practice .

  5. It would seem that the individual has “phone anxiety” and should maybe get some counselling before moving forward into a private practice. A good part of building a successful private practice is self marketing – making those connections in what ever way you can; presentations; consultations and telephone conversations.

  6. Hi Gary,

    I read your puzzlement and also the comments of others. I can see your confusion about why your good intentions to personalise your advice was not matched through an appropriate follow up by the other person. While some of the comments from others may hold validity, I would forward another hypothesis based on my personal experience.

    I am a social worker who moved through various stages of clinical practice, community practice and I now do research. I run an office where the people reporting to me are all younger. Their habits with regard to technology vastly differ from mine. Unlike them I do not subscribe to a data pack. I rarely use the telephone. I get most of my work accomplished through email. But I have had to adjust to their communication patterns of using What’s App and SMSes to get my message across. So I rely on a wi-fi network at the office and at home, and am offline in between. I have made clear that if they need an instant response they need to call me directly. Otherwise, we will use these devices and programmes as message boxes where I will respond to them when I see the message. I make sure that I check and respond so they never get the impression that I am ignoring them. So I have established a pattern of communication. It works. We are all aware of each other’s comings and goings. We have established what is an emergency. We have established clearly what my bottom line is about lack of communication.

    The point of this story is that there may be a generational difference in how we communicate. My family bemoaned the fact that I was not on What’s App for a year till I got it installed. Now I like it for family communication but am not interested in being so available for work colleagues and simple acquaintances.

    Now if your colleague is smart, this is a teachable moment for you and her. She is trying to get up a private practice. She will encounter people who have different preferences in terms of communication. She may have a clinical reason why she may want to limit her availability on certain media or she may not mind having very fluid boundaries.


  7. Marilyn Cooklin permalink

    As a social worker myself, i woukd have to, again, reply with the desire for a phone call or meeting in person. Text, email, messaging and additional non-emotion forms of connection are sometines hard to decipher. It is my belief that if a person is offered a connection via phone or even face to face meeting, for the other’s expertise, one should take it.

  8. Nancy Rodda permalink

    I retired from clinical management in a community mental health agency within the last year. As younger people entered the work force, we adapted by being more tech friendly. We did that because changing how we communicated benefited all concerned. I did find some of our more seasoned folks balked at change, but I also found some of the young people felt they did not have to adapt to the ways of the current workforce because they thought they knew better. That said, it seems that this person asking for your help doesn’t understand that when you ask someone a favor, you do it in a way that respects their wishes. So, poor social skills? Entitlement? Lack of experience? Hopefully, this person will reflect on what happened and adjust their behavior in the future.

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