I can only imagine what a true therapist or psychologist would pay to be in my shoes for a day or two. After all, these professions rely on people visiting them to sort through their issues, receive at advice and counseling, and hopefully fix whatever problem they are dealing with. Yet, people must bring their issues and problems with them and be able to communicate them clearly to these professionals in order to receive any meaningful help. Sometimes, due to situational blindness, they can't or won't communicate everything exactly the way it happens. This is where I bet a therapist or psychologist would love to be a fly on the wall in any one of their patients homes. Not so much to continue their work beyond what they are getting paid for, but rather to see the truth behind what their patient is saying, whether it is accurate or a little skewed. Those in my profession have that unique ability to be a fly on the wall of people's homes, not literally obviously, but figuratively. This is especially applicable with painters who often times spend more than 1 or 2 days in people's homes. I have found that the first 1 or 2 days (the amount that most other contractors will spend in a home) is always a little more quiet if the homeowners are present. Those first two days are like a vetting process almost, seeing what I or someone else will be like in their home. Will I listen to loud obnoxious music, be ornery and spiteful, or will I rather be quiet and taciturn, respectful and polite. For the most part, I like to place myself in the latter category, more times than not opting to work in relative quiet, just me and the room. After those first few days, it seems like the imaginary wall of non-communication between family members in the home is lifted and that is consequently when the life for the homeowners returns to normal. That is, normal for them, for me a window into their lives. I don't mean to imply that I eavesdrop on everything that is happening in the house. If a couple are whispering in another room, I will not go out of my way to move closer and try to elicit what is being said. Rather, as I am working, I hear the normal activities and conversations that occupy a home owner's life. Have you ever tried to work in a silent house and not listen to a conversation that someone is having? It is incredibly difficult.
Yet, there is a part of me that enjoys listening to people's conversations amongst their own family. I am like a super absorbent sponge that takes in everything and disseminates nothing. Every conversation that people have while I am working in their homes does not pass the walls of their homes. I hear, I absorb, and then when I walk through their door to go home, I am silent. I was going to say I forget, but that would be a lie. I remember a lot of what I hear and to be honest, it helps paint a better picture of who people are but even more importantly, it shows me the different ways in which people act and react. I use this intel when dealing with others every day. I see a plethora of different personalities and the intricacies that accompany them. I hear people dealing with doctor's about an illness they or a loved one are dealing with. There is sometimes raw emotion that is revealed, mostly unbeknown to the homeowner. You see, after those first few days, it is almost like I become part of the house, part of the daily happenings, and in the blending of me and their house, I in effect disappear to a degree. This doesn't mean that they will never come in and talk to me, rather, they sometimes forget that I am there while talking to their loved one in the house or to a friend or relative on the phone. I have seen both positive and negative ways of dealing with children, some that repulse me, some that necessitate my emulation of them to a degree. I have also seen relationships between spouse, again some positive and some negative, that either turn me off to the way they are dealing with one another, or give me insight as to what I might be able to do with my wife. All of that is mostly from conversations that I happen to hear. That doesn't even begin to touch on the conversations that I actually have with the homeowners. Often times, the homeowner will watch me work and strike up a conversation. As they are watching me work ( I rarely stop working to have a conversation with a homeowner, not out of spite or inconsideration, but out of a necessity to keep on working) they get engrossed in my method and patterns and start talking about themselves and their lives and after a while, I start to get a really good picture of who they are, what makes them tick, and the struggles that they are having.
Most times, unless asked, I don't offer my opinion on their personal issues. After all, I am simply there to improve the interior (or exterior) look of their home, not to offer counsel or therapy for their lives. Yet sometimes it feels like I am a therapist or psychologist. When those questions come, asking me what I would do in their situation or what my thoughts are on an issue that they are having, I respond almost as a therapist or psychologist would, respectfully, yet with complete honesty. I never communicate everything that I am thinking for sometimes I think they would probably throw me out of the house if I did. I have a tendency to be blunt and if I already don't necessarily care for the way they operate their household, I am not going to make it evident or reveal those thoughts to them. That is simply bad business and my response is often, "I really don't know". For the most part, I enjoy every conversation I have with a homeowner, however revealing it may be about them. I believe that in most cases, what I hear and what I talk about with a homeowner improves who I am as a person. In dealing with all different types of people, I learn the best way to deal and communicate with others. I have dealt with the downright weirdest and kindest individuals, the vindictive and the complacent. Every new job brings with it the prospect of getting yet another glimpse at humanity at its most basic, in the home. Everyone's home is their sanctuary of sorts, their place where they can be themselves and not worry about what other's think about them. As a painter who enters into this sanctuary, I take it upon myself to be indifferent to what that sanctuary is like. Every home owner's sanctuary is different, no two are the same. The aspect of dealing with the homeowner is one of the favorite aspects of my job. Every day brings a new adventure and I never know what I will learn or take away with me.