I’ve been working with Marion over the past few weeks. Marion, you may recall, is a Conflict Zen® reader who contacted me after a frustrating experience involving a client and and an invoice. She and I chatted and she agreed to permit me to write about the coaching experience here, while keeping key details private.
In our first phone conversation, I asked Marion to consider her most important goals for her work with me and in light of her recent experience with that client. We pondered the question together and Marion identified these:
- Communicate more effectively about the terms of her work and the value of her time.
- Continue to accommodate clients’ special requests when it makes good business and interpersonal sense to do so, but not in order to avoid the more difficult conversation.
- Learn how not to “get her buttons pressed” when in a difficult conversation and keep her balance in those moments.
In further conversation, I learned that Marion is very gracious, cares deeply about accommodating her clients’ needs, and holds herself to a high standard of excellence in her work. In difficult situations she’s typically “slow to boil” (meaning it takes a long time for her to get angry) and doesn’t really bristle or get angry in an overt way when things get complicated with clients. It’s no surprise, then, that Marion has some very long-term clients (one we’ve discussed has been a client for six years). She’s good at what she does, works very hard to serve clients well, and has a gracious, warm personality that creates, I imagine, very good relationships with clients.
She’s got a terrific and sound foundation from which to tweak her approach to some of the more difficult client conversations she might face in the future, and I can tell you that I’ve been really impressed with Marion’s ability to maintain her outward calm during conflict moments.
I asked Marion to reflect on what bothered her most during the frustrating exchange with the recent client. She pondered for a bit, and ultimately identified these two primary frustrations with that experience: It felt like he wasn’t respecting the significant time and effort she’d put into creating a beautiful garden for him, and it felt like he was trying to take advantage of her good will. She talked a bit about her tendency to figure out what she should have or could have said much later, after the opportunity was long past, and how she wishes she could find the right response in the moment.
Based on what I’d heard from Marion so far, I recommended a conflict style inventory for her to take and gave her some preliminary information about conflict triggers and how to figure out her own triggers in conflict situations. Our next conversation would focus on what she discovered as a result of completing the inventory and what she noticed, during the time between our conversations, about situations that bothered her—or didn’t.
Thanks, Marion, for your great clarity of thinking.