Tony put down the sheet of paper he was holding and leaned in toward his client. He said:
- I don’t know why you come to me. You know I treat the root cause of illness, and that means you probably will feel worse before you feel better while I take you through the die-off process. Yet, every time you start to feel bad you do something that stops the process. You say you want to learn from me, but you seem too intent on proving how much you know to listen. You don’t ask questions, you argue. You finish my sentences for me, and most of the time, your completion isn’t where I was going with my point. Yet, you tell me I’m helping you and you want to work with me. It seems to me that what you really want is a practitioner who will relieve all your symptoms and let you get on with your life without dealing with the root cause. It’s like the restaurant owners who get on Kitchen Nightmares because their businesses are failing, but try to teach Chef Ramsey how to run a restaurant.
Let that settle in for a minute.
There is a Japanese tale that illustrates the frustration of trying to work with someone who isn’t open to receive. It goes like this:
“The Japanese master Nan-in gave audience to a professor of philosophy. Serving tea, Nan-in filled his visitor’s cup, and kept pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could restrain himself no longer: ‘Stop! The cup is over full, no more will go in.’
Nan-in said: ‘Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.'”
Sometimes when Tony confronts clients like this, it results in a conversation that gets them on the same page. Other times the client talks like he or she is ready to get on board and changes just enough to stay a client, much like the employee who only does good work before the performance review. There are times when the client argues that they really are on board and Tony needs to pull the plug unilaterally.
Then there are times when Tony and his clients jointly decide they aren’t a match. They dissolve the working relationship.
Do you have anyone in your world who says they want what you do? Someone who says they agree to your terms, but in practice they are redefining the relationship on their own terms?
Maybe it’s time to have a conversation like Tony does. For Tony, it’s the difference between loving his work and hating it. What difference might it make for you?