Let me educate you about something.

What happened when you just read that line? Did you have an emotional reaction? Did you think, "What does this know-it-all think she can tell me? Is she implying I'm an ignoramus?" The word "educate" has been wildly misappropriated by members of various professions, and architects, alas, are no exception. I respectfully suggest you banish the word—and all the patronizing thinking it encourages—from your practice.

I believe the notion that we must "educate" those we are here to serve is detrimental to any profession. It's license to manipulate, to outsmart, to ignore any and all poor victims of our "education." At the very least, it perpetuates an insidious "us-and-them" divisiveness between architects and their clients that can seriously undermine the relationship. After all, architects already suffer from a substantial public relations problem: Much of the world remains convinced that you don't listen, you will try to foist your ideas upon them, and you consider yourself a superior judge of all things aesthetic.

None of this is to say you don't have valuable insight, information, and judgment to share. You do. Some of your clients will want a collaborator in designing their house; some of them will want a leader. Many hope to learn a fraction of what you know. But your job is to approach all of these tasks with a humility that acknowledges we all have much to learn in working with each other.

Our three Leadership Award-winning firms have no bias against any source of information and inspiration for their practices. They honor their clients with architecture that shows they've listened and applied lessons through their unique, talented filters. Most of all, they abhor complacency. They don't rest on their laurels and their substantial accomplishments, they continually strive to educate themselves in every way they can.

Comments? E-mail: S. Claire Conroy at cconroy@hanleywood.com.