May 20, 2010

Focus on Facilitation: I Heart "Difficult" Clients!

Recently I worked with someone who yeahbutted, becaused, justified, defended, and told stories for the better part of three sessions. This isn't unusual and I handled it the way I usually do; I listened for awhile, then pointed out what was happening and led her back to the questions...which pissed her off. That's also not unusual; and that's okay with me, I'm not doing this job in order to make friends, and I make that clear with every "difficult" client I encounter, while making sure they are okay with getting back to the process of inquiry.

During the last of our three sessions, something sunk in, the client said said, that hadn't budged for her after years of therapy on the same issue she was trying to dodge as she worked on it with me. So she signed up for more sessions.

If every client were "easy," I would not have the privilege of witnessing how most everyone who opts to sit in the client "hot seat" thirsts for resolution and eventually finds it. Sometimes they don't, or they don't just yet; and that is business of mine. When the time is right, there is simply nothing we, as clients, can do about breaking through. When it's not time, there is simply nothing that we, as facilitators, can do about that either. There's no magic formula, there are no right words to say. That's why it's great to tap into our own difficult-ness, so we can meet them where they are, where we are. Have you ever been resistant, cranky, closed, convinced you're right? I sure have. Five minutes ago. Five minutes from now.

I was a difficult client amundo o-rama. Just ask Byron Katie; she fondly remembers me fighting with her, in my fiery red dress. Then she got to watch while my world melted away before our eyes, not a moment before it was supposed to. Too bad my two times in the chair with her and my time at my first school weren't recorded so you could all see how adorable I am when I'm insane. (Friends of mine know that I'm still difficult!) And how helpless I was as sanity slowly came to light.

Nobody needs The Work, not if they don't want it. And if a "difficult" client is sitting with me, I have to assume they want it. I'm not going to give up on them, try to change their minds, spout canned wisdom at them. I'm not going to pounce on them the second I hear them say the letter "b" (as in "but" and "because"). This isn't a game of "gotcha."

Instead, I'm going to hear them and let them hear themselves. (So many juicy core beliefs come to light when a client justifies, defends and gives backstory; why wouldn't we want that?) Then I'm going to give them whatever I have, which isn't much. That's what was given to me: not much; and of course, that "not much" was more than enough. That's why I'm still here to tell the tale.

In my experience, the "difficult" clients are working harder than anyone else I work with. They are scared to lose their stories; and yet, they want to. The story is half gone already and they are holding on to its remnants for dear life, knowing they are about to lose the old religion for good.

Maybe the bigger we are, the harder we fall.

I love my "difficult" clients! Yeah, I play favorites; because (oh no, justification!) they are me, they are my heart, they are my work. And "difficult" is a story I used to use to torture myself in their name.

I hope, for your sake, that you don't still believe in "difficult" clients.

©2010 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

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