Recently a friend texted for advice about a “hard client he was working with” (his words). He indicated he thought she needed some tough love. He asked me to tell him how to do that. I agreed to have a conversation to explore his situation.
He told me that he had spent three hours the night before crafting an email with his proposed solutions to the client’s business issues.
He wanted me to read it but didn’t feel hopeful she would heed his advice. I asked if we could talk about the bigger picture instead of the content of his email.
He’s familiar with the above/ below the line framework from the Conscious Leadership Group (worth 3 min if you have not watched it). I asked him a few times where he felt he was vis-à-vis the line. Each time he said he was above the line because he was trying to help the client.
I asked if I could offer my feedback. He was game. I offered that I was experiencing him as being very below the line in that moment. I drew the drama triangle and described the various drama roles of hero, victim and villain (Another worthwhile 3 min).
I asked again if he could recognize himself in any of those roles. This was the TSN Turning Point.
He could recognize himself in all three roles: hero, victim and villain.
He had arrived feeling that everything was her fault. She had become a “hard client who needed tough love”. When he broke it down he could see he was being a hero by working outside the scope of their agreement to “save her” (and resenting every minute of it). He was feeling like a victim because she was “irrational and undermining the process”. And he was making her a villain for not doing what she needed to do to grow her business.”
Here’s the thing: The client may not have had a clue my friend was experiencing her this way. Since he was concealing his feelings and working hard to overcome the “problem”, the drama was on his side (She may have been feeling some drama too but I did not speak to her ☺).
When my friend could shift to owning his contribution to what was going on between them, he was able to see he had some choices.
I challenged him to have a clearing conversation with her.¹ To own his feelings. To tell her the facts (that she had taken 2 weeks reply to his emails and a few other unarguable facts) and the stories he was making up about her. And to make it clear that he wanted a more honest relationship with her if they were to continue working together as consultant and client.
My friend is a brave soul and a life-long learner. He willingly agreed to have the conversation.
Two days later he sent me this note:
“What happened was unbelievable. We agreed on all kinds of things. No one was defensive. I thought I was going to have to resign from this client. Instead, we have more trust than we had before and we have a path forward”.
We all have drama in our lives. Becoming more aware of when we are in drama and realizing we have choices is a huge victory.
Having courageous conversations to shift out of drama is icing on the cake. I am proud of my friend. He shifted. You can too.
¹ If you’d like a one-page step-by-step script on how to have a clearing conversation, please email me.