Well, I guess I earned another badge of honor when I received the following text from someone seeking my help today:

‘Don’t contact me again.  Your weird, aggressive messages are very off-putting and I have no interest in working with you in the future.’

Let’s call her ‘Heather’.  Apologies to all the Heathers out there.  Any similarities to persons living or dead are purely you-know-what-I-mean.

Any-hoo, Heather had booked two appointments on my scheduling system in the same week.  It so happens that my VA, who usually catches these things, was on personal leave.  There are always at least two gifts in these inconvenient situations: I discover the holes in my systems, and then there are valuable lessons caused by the ensuing errors.  

Heather blew me off for the first appointment.  Once I confirmed that she was alright, she explained that she had double booked herself. Hey, it happens, we’ve all done it.  

The second time, the following day, she swore she’d be at the appointment.  Then, a half-hour before I’m ready to jump on Ye Olde Zoom, I notice her email:  Up all night.  Won’t be able to focus. Sorry.

In situations like this, I push back.  One, because my time is valuable and when someone takes up space on my calendar, let alone two spaces, that’s time someone else could have booked with me.  Two, I recognize fear when I see it.  This person clearly needed my help.  People reach out to a coach when they crave the mental command to get out of their own way and achieve success. The very thing that drove her to contact me was getting in her way now: letting how she feels sabotage what she wants.   What she wants is help.

I picked up the phone to call her.  No answer, which did not surprise me.  The phone used to be a coward’s instrument because it’s so easy to hang up on someone.  Now it’s a mantle of courage: Whether answering the phone or placing the call, you are braving an actual encounter.

Still grounded in both a desire to help and salvage my time, I sent Heather the following text and email:

Hi Heather,

I’ve already conveyed this by text as your phone when to voicemail, but I want to be sure you see it in time, if possible.

I’m afraid that if we don’t have the consultation at 10 AM today I’m going to need to ask you not to reschedule again for six months. That’s just my policy.

As I said in the text, it’s not about how you feel it’s about what you want.  It’s OK to feel however you do to show up to a call.  Focus comes from interest and connection, not how you feel.  So you’re in the perfect place for a consultation as you’ll probably feel better afterward!

I then wrote back that the phone was fine; we didn’t have to zoom. 

I can see how my ‘digital body language’ could be received as a tad, shall we say, threatening.  Telling someone to wait six months before contacting me again is indeed my policy, but it is usually delivered after the fact of standing me up, and via my assistant. Stating my policy in writing right off the bat the way I did is not something I would do again. Like I said, every situation is fraught with gifts…especially the gift of knowledge.

That said, I was annoyed, (which is a reason, not an excuse) and perhaps I unconsciously wanted to screen her out once and for all.  Because someone who really wanted my help would have accepted the boundary I was laying down, appreciated the butt-kick, and shown up to the call.  

That is the scenario which has actually played out, slight variations notwithstanding, on other occasions.  That’s the kind of client I’m looking for: Someone who is ripe for change. People who become my clients want a coach who is willing to exhibit some fierceness on their behalf.  They are committed to their own greatness, which is why they want to be pushed and called out on their shit.

I did respond to her text, by the way.  I said: 

‘Thank you.’