My first interaction with a client was when I was 9 years old. My parents had retail clothing stores in Canada and would make me help out after school. The first time I handled the shop alone was when I was 11 years old. At that time I complained a lot (imagine every summer vacation & school holiday spent working!) but I am so grateful for that experience today.
I was an extremely shy person growing up, to the point where I was scared to speak to people. I still remember that the mere experience of dialling a number and speaking to someone over the phone would have me in sweats. My family shook that fear out of me by making me interact with people. It helped me build my confidence & helped me understand the importance of excellent customer service at a very young age. More importantly, I would later realise, it would help me throughout life whenever I would doubt myself. My Dad would say:
“You are a smart, confident girl Sonal. Never be afraid of anyone when you walk into a room – whether he’s a CEO or the Prime Minister of the country”
I would remember this every time a customer walked into a store and I had to interact with him or her. It’s been quite a few years since then and I still haven’t met a PM but have engaged with my fair share of CEOs & celebrities and guess what? Dad was right. It’s no big deal. I see so many people my age who are afraid to initiate conversations with others just because of their so-called status. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own insecurities & we all have at least one thing in common: we’re all human!
I’m not saying child labour (that’s what I would call it begrudgingly when my parents asked me to help) is the solution for building a well-rounded person, but one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was making me face my fears early on & engage in an activity that helped me communicate better & relate with people. There are lots of other ways to do this. You could take a drama class that forces you to perform & build up your confidence or volunteer with strangers to develop your interpersonal skills. For me it was working because my parents needed help & we couldn’t afford extracurriculars.
Now, I look forward to public speaking and enjoy interacting with people whom I’ve never met. Of course, I still get nervous but I always remember my dad’s words. At the end of the day, your looks & bank balance isn’t (always) within your control but your intelligence & ability to overcome your weaknesses is.