It's All Relative

The great polar vortex of 2019.

A couple of weeks ago, several of my friends were slated to meet up at a common friend’s house, but then the polar vortex happened. This caused a few of the friends to choose to stay home because it was too cold to get out.

It was 20 degrees.

I pretty much hate winter, but when it’s 20 degrees outside, you just throw on your winter coat and call it good, right? Couple the 20 degrees with wind, just add a hat, scarf, and gloves.

It works.

Apparently, it doesn’t work for everyone. My threshold is different than my friend’s threshold. I realized that when some of them chickened out over a 20 degree evening.

And then I read the following on Facebook:

Cold is a relative thing…

65 above zero
Floridians turn on the heat
People in Wisconsin plant gardens

50 above zero
Italian and English cars won’t start
People in Wisconsin drive with the windows down

35 above zero
New York landlords finally turn up the heat
People in Wisconsin have the last cookout before it gets cold

Californians fly away to Mexico
People in Wisconsin get out their winter coats

20 below zero
Washington DC runs out of hot air
People in Wisconsin let the dogs sleep indoors

40 below zero
ALL atomic motion stops
People in Wisconsin start saying, “Cold enough fer ya?”

50 below zero
Hell freezes over
Wisconsin public schools will open two hours late

It made me giggle, but it also got me to thinking… so many things in this life are relative. Relative to our own personal beliefs, experiences, and expectations.

As a private investigator, this means every client I have is unique. I cannot assume that something acceptable for one client is going to be acceptable for the next. I can’t assume that all expectations are equal. And I absolutely cannot place my own beliefs, experiences, and expectations on my clients.

So what can I do to ensure every client receives the best treatment?

Read Your Audience

Most of my clients are adoptees who have contacted me to find one or both birth parents. I’ve put a lot of time into considering my own state of mind if I myself were an adoptee contacting a private investigator to find my biological parents.

It would probably be a bit intimidating. Most adoptees have likely never contacted a private investigator before. They don’t know how the process works. They don’t really know what to expect.

So when a prospective adoptee client contacts me, one of the first things I do is gently walk them through the process. I familiarize them with the private investigation industry and outline what they can expect from me if they hire me.

Some adoptee clients come to me with loads of research they’ve already done on their own. They’ve already gotten the ball rolling in their search for their biological family.

Others come to me with very little and have done no research themselves at all.

It doesn’t matter where a client is in the process. It only matters that I identify where they are so I can appropriately and effectively search on their behalf and, fingers crossed, find whoever they are searching for.

Ask Loads of Questions

Many adoptees aren’t aware of just how many details they already have about their adoption that can serve as potential leads for me as I search for their biological family. So I ask questions. Lots and lots of questions.

In fact, one of the first “assignments” I give my adoptee clients is a list of 45 questions to answer on their own, then we schedule a time to review their answers together in which I ask even MORE follow-up questions.

As a crime analyst, I learned quickly that many of my clients didn’t know exactly what it was they wanted from me. I had to ask several questions to push them to critically think about their problem so I could find the answers.

It’s been the same as a private investigator. We have to ask loads of questions in order to better hone in on a client’s needs, so in the end, we can meet those needs.

Don’t Make Assumptions

I’ve had clients who need a lot of emotional support along the way. I’ve had others who want only the facts, cut and dry.

Some of my past clients have craved the details. Others just want the bottom line.

Many clients want a highly detailed report. Others would roll their eyes if I included such “unimportant” details. “Just give me the skinny!”

Don’t make assumptions about what your client wants. Don’t assume anything. Ask those myriad of questions up front so you are both crystal clear on expectations and deliverables.

Cater to Your Client

Not all private investigators agree with me on this.

I think great private investigators cater to their clients. It is very important to me to uncover a clients preferences and cater to them as best I can within reason.

I’m not talking about the client who expects me to drop everything I’m doing at a moment’s notice to fulfill his or her request immediately. Nope.

I’m talking about texting a client only between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Friday if that’s what they’ve requested.

I’m talking about communicating via email only if that is their preferred method of communication.

I’m also talking about providing some helpful book and article recommendations that would compliment a resolution to your client’s problem.

Would your client benefit from some other service, as well the one you are providing? If so, throw out some recommendations. Put them in touch with the right person or group.

Be that person who not only provides dynamite service to them, but also that person who puts them in touch with other resources that will further help them out.


Listen to your client.

Also good advice in general. Listen to people.

And remember, when you’re dealing with people in any capacity - as friend, coworker, client, spouse, child… it really is all relative.