The Myth of the Difficult Client (It’s Not About You)

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My life lesson: when I encounter resistance or difficulty, I can do one of two things. I can take it personally (and all the crap that comes with that), or surrender (and flow down the stream easily).

This week, I had a client couple coming in who appeared to me to be unhappy with the work we had done for them. To be transparent, some of our systems didn’t work the right way while we were in the middle of a move and restructuring of the firm. And there were things that I personally could have done better to improve their engagement and planning process.

I sensed my client felt angsty, pissed off, and that they might lash out at me. I worried about it. I justified the less than smooth events in my mind. I even allowed myself permission to terminate the engagement, just so I wouldn’t have to feel the discomfort of an unhappy client (yes, I am that sensitive).

The night before their final meeting, I tried to resist the temptation to rehearse the meeting in my head. But the thoughts of how I might offer to terminate our engagement kept popping into my mind. How can I not feel the pain of feeling less than absolutely valuable? How can I avoid confronting my own wound in the face of a client who is hell-bound to show it to me? Panic began to set in.

That next morning, I drank a bit too much coffee and got jittery and nervous. (Not good. Don’t do that when you’re already anxious.)

Meditation (not medication) was going to be the only way for me to settle down so I could do my job. I sat down and got very still. For a really long time. As my thoughts settled, I asked for guidance for this client. I asked to see through my own sensitivity and wounding so I could remain in service to them. My breath deepened and my mind reached around them to feel what must be going on for them to make the feel so angsty, when almost all of our other clients experience a sense of calm and liberation as a result of the planning process.

I could feel their stress in my body and get a flavor of the suffering they’ve had in their lives. I remembered their story and why they came to me—their children who have special needs. Compassion started to fill me, like a cup of warm, welcoming tea. Then the image of the three us sitting together in deep peace arose in my mind. In that imaginary space, there was understanding, community, oneness.

I finally rose from my bolster and made my way to the office, holding that image in my mind and listening to a beautiful Wah! meditation (very similar to this one), until they arrived.

My client was coming in for their Family Legacy Interview (and if you don’t know what that is, hit REPLY to your newsletter email (or comment below on the blog here) to find out what it is and why Personal Family Lawyers® do them). At the outset of our meeting, I had some nervousness arise.  But the image of us sitting together pushed its way through to the front of my mind. I allowed my words, posture, voice, to be informed by that vision. I felt the fear and panic melt away.

When a moment arose for me to look them in the eye and speak the truth of the mistakes made (not big in the scheme of things) and hear the impact they had on them (much bigger than I thought), we found ourselves looking into each other’s eyes. Appreciation arose right there.

And that imaginary circle of peace became real.

I saw my client in a new way, as whole beings capable of so much, who in this moment were experiencing tremendous pressures. And they too, were able to receive what they’d come to get from me—not just an estate plan, but a person they could feel they can rely on even when things don’t go smoothly, who will remain a rock for them, a place they can lose their shit and still be cared about and tended to.

It’s moments like these that I realize that my work doesn’t just help and change my clients… It changes me. It can heal my wounds and allow me to become the person I am meant to be.

 

 

Published In: Professional Practice Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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