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Regaining Your Self-Worth After Working with a Difficult Client

Ever work with a condescending client?  You know… the person that intends to micromanage every step of your performance?  It creates for a miserable working situation!  This week, we are having a series of posts, written by Dina Eisenberg, Founder of Positively Wed, an educational resource for wedding professionals.  This week she addresses the concerns of how to avoid working with difficult clients, and how to make the difficult relationships more peaceful.

Now that you understand bullies a little better because of yesterday’s post, let’s build in some compassion for you, too.  There is nothing worse than second guessing yourself and feeling miserable.  When you’re in the midst of a tussle with bride, you’re bound to feel a little hurt or insecure.  And, having to fix a mistake or possibly ‘fire’ a client might leave you reeling with doubt. So, for the last post in this series, let’s talk about how to regain your confidence quickly after something goes awry.

Are you a Snapshot or Video?

Each one of us has something I call your core identity.  It’s who you believe you are at the deepest level of your being.   For instance, I know I’m honest, thoughtful, fun and caring.  For you, you might say you’re cheerful or powerful or kind or organized.

Quick, in your mind’s eye think of a picture of yourself.  I’m betting you saw a snapshot of you at a certain age.  (I used to picture myself at 22 but since 40 is the new twenty, I’m going with that ;))  That’s how we tend to think of ourselves- as a snapshot in time.  Like a Polaroid picture.  However, it’s more accurate to see yourself as a video- moving, changing with every minute.

When you hold onto a static image of yourself, one that’s inflexible, it becomes very difficult to deal with an integrity attack skillfully.  What is an integrity attack?

Losing Your Balance

Have you ever walked down the street then suddenly tripped over seemingly nothing on the concrete?  Or maybe you were traveling on a boat or cruise and experienced a momentary swell that took you slightly off your feet and tangled your belly?  In those moments, there’s a sense of surprise, shock, disbelief and anxiety, and an unpleasant shift in reality.

Same thing happens to each of us when someone or something threatens our core identity.  That’s an integrity attack.  Scientifically speaking, it causes a cognitive dissonance between who you think you are and who the world perceives you to be.  And, it brings on the same feelings as tripping:

Surprise What happened?

Shock How did that happen to me?

Disbelief That couldn’t be true about me?

Anxiety What if that is true about me?

When you experience an integrity attack (real or imagined). It feels awful, and it’s likely you’ll take one of two stances: maximize or minimize.

For example, say you think of yourself as a prompt person who is rarely late.  You think lateness is a sign of disrespect.  Well, your week has been crazy with rescheduling and last minute issues so you’ve been late to a few meetings.  You’re hurrying to meet your bride at the bakery for a tasting but an accident blocks traffic making you 20 minutes late.  You called, but when you arrive the bride says, ‘Gee, I guess my budget needs to be bigger if I want your full attention.’  Now, that’s an integrity attack!

Maximize:  You get totally flustered and apologize repeatedly to the bride. You call yourself an idiot and make jokes at your expense about needing a better watch. You accept all the responsibility and feel awful about being so rude.

Minimize:   You cooly brush off her comment and say you are to start tasting. Meanwhile, you wonder if you should call her on the times she’s been late to meetings or whether she could’ve gotten through traffic any better.  You didn’t cause the accident and you’re ticked.

Each reaction is an extreme, you see, on a continuum of feeling.  One end accepts all the responsibility, and the other accepts none.   And, we tend to fluctuate between them until we can regain our balance somewhere in the middle.  You can speed that process, and make yourself feel a lot better by having a Rebalancing Conversation with yourself.

Regaining Your Balance and Confidence

Simply put, the Rebalancing Conversation helps you to complexify yourself.  Yes, complexify- I made that word up.  You want to see yourself not as a static image, but as an evolving video that has a blooper track.  Recognizing that you are a much more interesting, dynamic, complicated human being than you think is a good thing.  It allows you to see your own flaws and have compassion, which in turn, allows you to have compassion for the flaws of others, namely your brides and other wedding vendors.

How do you rebalance?  You call to mind your complexity.  Let me tell you a short story about me.  Years ago, I was asked to speak at a conference in Denver, a lovely city that I’d never visited before.   I arrived in town the night before as is my custom so I could relax and prepare.  Well, shortly after arriving, I felt sick.  Nauseous, dizzy and plain crummy.

Turns out that new visitors to Denver often experienced altitude sickness that lasts about 24 hours.  Furious with myself, I ranted about how stupid I was not to check first.  How terrible my presentation would be the next day because I’d be worried about being sick on stage.  How disorganized the event was for not warning me.  I just blew up.  Then, I rebalanced.

I quietly restated my core identity-I am an organized professional who always delivers value to her audience- and allowed for more complexity:

  • I am organized, but not always.
  • I am a professional, but even professionals don’t know everything
  • I still have valuable information to offer, even if it’s not presented at my personal best level
  • I always have fun with the audience, and we will today
  • I will do my best, and that will be enough

Before I knew it I had calmed down enough to think practically about the next day.  And, I shouldn’t have worried because the presentation went great and only my contact knew that I was altitude sick.

The key part of the Rebalancing Conversation is recognizing that there are times when you are your core identity and times when you are not and accepting both.  That way, you can be more flexible.

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. ~ Dennis Wholey

How does this apply your wedding business? It’s crucial!  There will be brides (mothers, grooms, friends) who will try to take over your role or imply you’re not doing a good job.  There will be those who compare themselves to you, and say ‘I could do better.‘   You can either suffer their integrity attacks, or flow with them like Neo in the Matrix.  

Shift your focus away from their perception of reality back to your own, knowing whatever you do, you do it to the best of your abilities on any given day.

About PositivelyWed.com-

Dina Eisenberg, Founder and former attorney & mediator, teaches wedding professionals like you to speak and act with grace, power and confidence so you can fall back in love with your wedding business!  Grab her free audio, Contracts That Work, at http://PositivelyWed.com

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June 10, 2010 - 4:41 pm

Joan~Five Grain Events - This actually JUST happened to me with a client a couple weeks ago (it was an experience shared by all her vendors, I don’t think she has the ability to feel satisfied). These internal exercises are really helpful in regaining my confidence!

May 9, 2011 - 12:44 pm

Rhonda Michelle Steward - As a vegetarian I *really* enjoyed that quote ;) Accepting what our reality is at any given moment is one of our biggest challenges; it is easy to put so many energy into resisting what *is* instead of using that same fuel to think creatively about how to *deal* with what is happening. If we use a good portion of our energy in resistance we won’t have much left to actually do something about what is challenging us! If you do your best {great reminder Dina} you can be at peace knowing your part is fulfilled and then shift to compassion for the other person and whatever challenge they have that caused the attack in the first place. A genuine inquiry {“How are things these days for you?”} said with true care and concern can melt away the defense that created the attack and open the doors to honest, open communication and clear the path again.

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