Fighting FOR The Client vs. Fighting WITH The Client.
I guess there are unpalatable parts to any given field. While it would be wonderful to only have good days, and no bumps in the road, I kinda signed up for the bumps in the road. I’m a fighter.
I’m not an MMA fighter, or a ninja, but I’m a fighter with the system, with corruption, and with discrimination and bullying.
My style leads me to be good at what I do, and most days I wake up eager to begin work and knock a few holes in the walls of inaccessibility. This means I’m fighting for my clients, and that produces moves forward. In all candor, making change is a long game, and strategy and patience are necessary elements of this path.
The Tyranny Of The Urgent
Clients have urgent situations. They wouldn’t be knocking on my door if they didn’t have an urgent situation that they needed someone with my skillset to objectively address. There’s a shit-ton of emotional energy that clients bring to the table, that I have to empathize with, and then compartmentalize into a side-room of my brain, so that I can remain objective and put together documentation and action that is logical, reasoned, and powerful. If I get into the emotion of what the client brings with their urgency, it is detrimental to their cause. This is why, during communication exchanges, I eliminate the emotion, and instead, ask questions designed to expose the problem that the other side has with their position. Ranting about something only feeds the fire of resistance on the other side, from my experienced perspective.
When A Client Demands You Act Through Their Urgency Filters…
Fatigue is a thing. Everyone gets tired of the fight, and must rest or replenish, or even take a vacation from the fight, so that they can continue to fight more. When this requirement is combined with the urgency of needing a remedy NOW, these two things can cause problems for one or more of the interacting parties - in this instance, for both the client, and I.
If a client won’t allow an advocate to compartmentalize out the emotion that the client brings to the table, it is not only detrimental to the outcome, it destroys trust and respect between the Advocate and Client.
Picture this. You’re running an auto-repair shop. You have 3 bays, and 3 mechanics, and you have all three bays full, and 4-5 cars waiting to be repaired. A customer pulls up as a passenger in a tow truck, with their car in tow, and comes in and says, “How fast can you fix this?” The standard answer is a guesstimate, but is definitely uncertain, because there may be more problems on the cars already in line that are unseen or unknown that will consume more time than expected.
So, the customer drops off the car, goes back home, and calls you in 45 minutes to see if you have their car fixed. Astonished that they would call so soon, you tell them no, that the car is still waiting in line. They proceed to tell you that they can’t work, they can’t go to the grocery store, and they can’t even pick up more toilet paper, and that’s created a crisis at home because they are out, and having to improvise, and, oh, also, they’re out of detergent to wash the washcloths that they subbed in as toilet paper. AND, they’re hungry. Then they say, “So when can you have my car fixed?”
And this happens, in a repeated cycle, with the customer bringing more and more problems to the phone call that are caused by not having their car, and they’re painting this as YOUR fault.
The emotion is making this last longer, and be more painful for all involved. Honestly, when I get these kinds of clients, it makes me want to just close the doors and stop what I’m called to do. But I can’t do that.
Then, the customer calls you and says that their house was just foreclosed on because they didn’t have a car and they lost their job, and couldn’t pay their house payment. As a logical thought, you reason that they must have been behind in their house payments long before they met you and this is not your problem, but now they are blaming you for this chain of events in their lives, just because you’re there.
And, occasionally, with a slightly different picture than the auto repair shop example I’ve given, I run into this.
And it’s awkward and ugly, because my fight FOR the client turns into a fight WITH the client, and usually, in fights, the clearer head prevails.
Tips for clients.
There is/was (don’t know if they are still in business) a place back home in Mount Airy NC, called Odell’s sandwich shop. They had this ground steak sandwich that was just mouthwatering and delicious. It was a drive-in place, with order speakers on each parking spot, kinda like the early version of a Sonic. On their signs, they had something to the effect of “Good food takes time to prepare. Thank you for your patience.”
1. If you’re a client, understand that demanding that your emotional energy be interjected into every conversation with your Advocate, is not only unreasonable, it is slowing down the process. If you do this repeatedly, and with increasing vigor, you’re setting yourself up to fail. That’s not the Advocate’s fault.
2. Micro-managing is evidence that you don’t trust the Advocate you’ve just engaged to act on your behalf. This breeds contempt. Asking questions for clarity is perfectly allowed, and it is a standard, and expected part of my usual and customary interactions. Asking repeatedly when something is going to be finished, when it is in process, is detrimental and also slows down the process.
3. Your method isn’t working, that’s why you engaged an Advocate. Think of the story in the Bible with Saul offering David a suit of armor. David turned it down, because his slingshot worked for him. All Advocates have their slingshot. Bringing you methods to the table is usually not advantageous, although a courteous and professional Advocate will allow you to be heard on the matter and explain that they need to use their skillset in the way they are accustomed. Re-visiting this after that first talk, and demanding that the Advocate “say this” or “say that” to a judge, or to your ex’s attorney, or whomever, is shooting yourself in the foot.
4. Threatening the Advocate turns this into a fight. One you are unlikely to win, and one you are unlikely to fight. I see past this emotion, and realize that you only want relief “right fucking now”, but once you target the one that is trying to help you, you’ve lost, and you’ve lost big. I observe that people who do this, have done this before, and it is their pattern of operation in life.
5. Observe the rules of relationship. There are four pillars to relationship. Trust, Honesty, Communication, and Respect. If one of these is missing, there is a hostage situation. You were a hostage when you came to the Advocate - a hostage of whatever process you were wanting the Advocate to help you resolve. Turning the Advocate into a hostage just kills your chances of winning.
I’ve had clients that I got into tense situations with, because of one or more of the things listed above, and they’ve checked themselves and adjusted into a better frame. Frankly, I have a client now, that has done this, and that adjustment BUILDS trust, respect, communication, and honesty. This tension in Advocacy is not uncommon. It has to be called out, addressed, and either dealt with by adjusting the interaction, or the whole deal is going south from that moment on.
As an Advocate, I’m expected to bring patience to the table. PLEASE extend that same courtesy, and you’ll get much further in life. We are all fighting a battle, and when you find a battle buddy, don’t start comparing your fight to everyone else’s fight. Just fight the fight that you have in front of you, instead of starting another fight with your battle buddy.
I’m thankful that I’ve only had about three clients over three years that were just determined to fight me as well as everyone else. This week was one of the three. To say it took an emotional toll on me is an understatement. It was trauma akin to having cops roll up on me in Portland OR, for no certain reason other than to harass. It was “Accusation Trauma,” Which I have written about here. As seasoned as I am, I hate visiting this place, but thanks to Jordan Peterson, I dealt with it and moved on.
Finally, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining. I’ve been through more shit than Charmin, and I’m here to fight FOR you, not WITH you.
P.D., JAY V. SHORE