My Client Quit.
Earlier in my coaching career, one of my clients emailed me and told me he was wondering if we should still continue our work together. At first, my heart sank. Then I remembered, I created this. And I asked myself, “How?”
Both personally and with my clients, I am constantly asking, “How did you create this?” and, “How could you create that (thing you want)?”
While this is not the same as, “How are you responsible for this?” it challenges you to own how you are impacting your experience of life and change what you do have responsibility over to change it.
So while it was still hard to read, I wasn’t surprised.
I replied: “Call me.”
When we talked, he shared with me that he just wasn’t seeing results. In fact, he had gained weight during our work and now weighed more than ever. He was in the middle of one of the hardest periods of his life, moving from the west coast to the east coast, changing jobs, experiencing family trouble and really just didn’t think he could commit to regular coaching sessions because he had no control over his schedule.
No control, I thought. This was the same reason he couldn’t shop, cook, meditate, try a yoga class, deep breathe, ask for help, etc… the reason he was emotionally tapped out and ate to numb his pain. Food was the only place he allowed himself to let go.
“Take control,” I challenged him.
“I don’t know how.”
Fuck. I don’t know how, I thought, frustrated. He always says this.
I opened up and shared with him honestly about how this element of control was showing up everywhere for him: work, family, food… Until he claimed control, he was going to struggle. That control isn’t something that happens because life slows down, it’s something you claim. Put your stake in the ground.
I believe this is where I lost him.
I said that for him, for me.
He was so stuck. And I was so uncomfortable. He really pushed me to my edge as a coach. Many coaches believe you should “fire” clients like this. But I believe they teach you to detach and grow tremendously as a coach. He wasn’t budging. Silence. Resignation. Leaned back in his office chair, giving up.
If I was talking for him, for him, I would have said nothing.
Actually, I would’ve said what I said to him a few days later in an email.
Instead, I continued. “When it gets hard is not the time to quit. It’s the time to commit more.”
“I know that, I want to. I just don’t know how.”
FUCK. I don’t know how. Frustration, my frustration.
The call ended on a similar tone, me motivating passionately and him silent. The truth is, deep down, I was really afraid to lose him as a client.
I was fighting to keep him, instead of fighting for him.
That is what I mean when I said I was speaking for him, for me.
He emailed me to “pause for now” a few days later.
Fear realized. He quit… at least for now.
And I was still alive. Still a great coach. Still surviving in my life. And my entire business didn’t fall apart.
Most importantly, now I could really be the coach he needed. Nothing to lose.
A few days after he quit, he emailed me, desperate:
“I’m completely at my end. I am totally out of control. I’m stressed about this move. Worried I made the wrong choice. I feel horrible. I’m stuck in my on-and-off starting and quitting.”
Nothing to lose. He had already paused our partnership. I could be there for him, for him.
“Of course you’re still feeling this way. You’re using your same strategy in the same way, with the same emotion. Which is creating the same result.
If you want out of this cycle, you have to connect to what you need. If you sit still long enough, you will know what that is.
What is it?
When you start to honor that, you will have begun to break free of this.”
This is what I should have said to him on the phone. If I had been fighting for him, instead of fighting to keep him, I would have said this for him, for him.
“I know what you’re saying, I just don’t know how.”
No frustration this time. Just pure, detached love.
I told him that “not knowing how” was a scapegoat. He knew. I didn’t. And he had to stop waiting for the solution that would fix everything and just take a step in the direction. A 5% shift. I gave him a step to take.
I know it’s not what he wanted to hear. But him quitting made me realize that now that I had lost him, I had to fight for him, for him.
No more motivation. No more softening. The only thing I will be for him is the mirror that reflects the next step that he needs to take. I’ll reflect back to him what is truly in his way.
Will he come back to coaching? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
But if he does, I will share with him that the only way I will re-enter into a coaching partnership is if we focus only on happiness, self-love and removing his “how” scapegoat.
I will do this for him, for him.