Yesterday I sent off a solution to a client about a really tricky and heavy personal relationship problem. The kind that affects multiple people’s lives for years to come. I felt really good about having gently loosened the threads to find the through line and give him a clear path that might not fix things entirely (because you can’t control other people), but would give him peace of mind that he’d walked the direct path.
He wrote back to me, thanking me effusively for showing him all the sides in such an analytical and clear way, and affirming his own emotions about it so he didn’t have to be bound by them while he worked toward a solution. Which was awesome. And then he said this: “There were a few omitted details and a major negatively impacting event that might alter (the way this plays out).”
You know how when Olivia Pope finds out that you left out something major, she just stares at you and then figures out how much she’s going to hurt you once she cleans up your problem? Yeah. I was staring hard through the computer screen at my client.
If you’re working with me, don’t leave out important things, whether big or small.
I have no idea what my client’s omitted things were, but I guarantee that if he’d told me what they were, the solution I gave him would have maintained the same tone, but would also have gotten closer to an easy, unburdened path for him.
Last week I wrote about how I unstick problems. But that’s actually just the theory of how I do it. How I actually do it is that I go into a room in my mind with the problem, and the problem itself sort of turns into a heat map, and I walk around inside the territory of the problem and look for the stuck spots and the movable spots. And that’s where I dig in and shift things around. If I don’t know what the actual territory of the problem is (because you left something out), I can’t do as good a job. And I really want to do the best job possible solving your problem.
Why do people leave things out? Because they’re embarrassed, I think. Sometimes people have done things that are naive or stupid or mean-spirited or just plain bad. And they don’t want to tell me about it. But you should tell me about it, for the following reasons:
1. I’m a service provider. You’re paying me to solve your problem, not to make you godparents of my kids or nominate you for Concerned Citizen of the Year or let you into heaven. Who cares what I think of what you did? I’m just trying to help you make it better.
2. I have done an awful lot of things that are naive, stupid, mean-spirited, and/or just plain bad myself. Even if I wanted to judge you, I couldn’t judge you in good conscience, unless you have no remorse and want to keep on doing it. (In which case I’d just tell you I couldn’t solve your problem, and we’d part ways.)
3. If I know what really happened, solving your problem gets a lot easier, and the solution I give you is better.
So you should tell me all the key parts of your situation. Even if you’re not sure how they all come together, or which part is the real problem. And then I won’t have to give you the “I’m going to hurt you” stare when you tell me my solution was almost-but-not-quite.
Ready to just tell me what’s going on, and what you need to hand me to worry about so you can take a break from worrying about it? You can find me at flashcons.com.