What to Do When Your Clients Got You Feeling Depressed

Depressed-Client

It happened about 10 years ago or so. I was walking through Umeda Station. Western Japan’s largest railway hub with more than 2.3 Million passengers daily.

It was late afternoon and my wife and I were going to enjoy a great night.

During dinner and later at the club my mind kept swinging back and forth between the conversation with my wife and the issue my client was having.

First a new Spanish restaurant and then drinks at a jazz club.

Just then my phone rang. It was Kaz, one of my top clients.

He had a problem and needed my help right away.

I told him I was out and would be in touch early the next day.

It Wasn’t That Easy

But I couldn’t get his call off my mind.

During dinner and later at the club my mind kept swinging back and forth between the conversation with my wife and the issue my client was having.

It ruined my night.

I couldn’t give my wife the full attention she deserved. I wasn’t present the way I wanted to be.

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t the first time this happened…

On several occasions I had client issues come up that completely swept my mind away.

That took me ‘out’ of whatever I was doing the moment a client called me.

Things Had to Change

This time I’d had enough.

I decided then and there something had to change.

It wasn’t my clients. It wasn’t their fault I couldn’t control my feelings.

I later realized this happened because I cared so much about my clients and their well-being.

But after that call in Umeda Station many years ago I decided…I had to change my approach.

Here are the two things I put into practice that made all the difference:

1. Unless it’s an emergency. Rarely were these emergencies. Yet in my mind, because I wanted my clients to always be happy and get great results, I saw them as urgent.

I can’t help but smile at how the stress and worry I felt wasn’t caused by my client or any external factor. It was all created by me.

I was creating a situation that didn’t exist in reality. I was heightening the ‘reality’ I saw to a level that really didn’t exist. I believed my clients needed a solution right away. Whereas in reality they didn’t expect an immediate solution or response.

Once I saw this for what it really was I was able to step back and take a ‘breath’ then relax. I didn’t let my mind create emergencies that didn’t exist.

2. This is the consulting business. As consultants this is the business we are in. It’s the relationship business. Dealing with client issues is part of the territory. I shifted from feeling stress when an issue came up to seeing it as part of my expertise.

It’s like when you go on holiday and some people believe you shouldn’t look at any emails or have a call with a client. Why? Have the confidence to do what you need to do anytime. If jumping on a quick call with a client or taking 30 minutes out of a whole day to respond to a few important emails helps your business run smoothly – that’s great.

Once you realize that this is all part of the business and YOU are in control of how you handle and think about ALL of this…you become empowered. The worry and stress you felt before dissolves.

When an issue arises you deal with it on your terms as best as you can and then you move on with your day. You can’t let a challenging call or situation get you down. Because if you can’t handle that you’re really in the wrong business.

This all took me a few years to learn. To really understand. When I think about this experience I went through (and the many others I had back in the day) I can’t help but smile at how the stress and worry I felt wasn’t caused by my client or any external factor. It was all created by me.

You have full control. Don’t let anyone including yourself take that away from you.

Have you ever experienced a situation like this? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

  • Kiran Meka

    Great article. I have been in that situation many times and slowly changing the approach. Certainly doing good for me. Thanks for sharing the insight.

  • Ron Haynes

    “I was creating a situation that didn’t exist in reality. I was heightening the ‘reality’ I saw to a level that really didn’t exist. ”

    That’s MY personal takeaway here. How many times have I done this to myself … ?

    Thanks for helping me see this.

    • Love that you focused on that Ron! It’s powerful and glad it helps!

  • Dusko Zafirovic

    Great article, it reminded me of a similar “urgent” situation where I had not yet made the division you are writing about it but It ended up well for both sides. The issue was solved and I had to “invest” only one day of my vacation. Outcome was great, the client appreciated the solution and once he learned I was on vacation while discussing problems, he even doubled the consulting fees himself.

  • Timothy Dallinger

    Michael, your efforts to perceive and handle this issue are noble indeed. However you have missed a central point in your analysis. You have stated, “I believed my clients needed a solution right away. . . . I cared so much about my clients and their well-being.” While those doubtless are true statements, they were not the source of your stress. The source of your stress — and your anxiety — was that YOU NEEDED A SOLUTION RIGHT AWAY. What was at stake was not truly your client’s needs as you ultimately recognized. What was at stake was your belief that you would be less of a professional — and less of a person — if you did not solve your client’s problem immediately no matter what your own present situation was. You even saw yourself as less of a husband! In short, you were dealing with a self-esteem issue Michael, and that was what was causing the stress. Once you can stop viewing your need and ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound at any time as the measure of your own value, the stress and anxiety will go away. Next time, when on vacation with your wife, try turning off your phone entirely with an outgoing message that says you are on holiday and leaving the name and number of a trustworthy colleague for clients to call if it is something urgent. You will find that clients will respect your willingness to be an active family man and that they will indeed express admiration and even some degree of envy for your ability to take a true, healthy vacation. And when you return home there will be new business waiting for you — guarantied!

  • Timothy Dallinger

    Michael, your efforts to perceive and handle this issue are noble indeed. However you have missed a central point in your analysis. You have stated, “I believed my clients needed a solution right away. . . . I cared so much about my clients and their well-being.” While those doubtless are true statements, they were not the source of your stress. The source of your stress — and your anxiety — was that YOU NEEDED A SOLUTION RIGHT AWAY. What was at stake was not truly your client’s needs as you ultimately recognized. What was at stake was your belief that you would be less of a professional and less of a person if you did not solve your client’s problem immediately no matter what your own present situation was. You even saw yourself as less of a husband! In short, you were dealing with a self-esteem issue Michael, and that was what was causing the stress. Once you can stop viewing your need and
    ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound at any time as the measure of your own value, the stress and anxiety will go away. Next time, when on vacation with your wife, try turning off your phone entirely with an outgoing message that says you are on holiday and leaving the name and number of a trustworthy colleague for clients to call if it is something urgent. You will find that clients will respect your willingness to be an active family man and that they will indeed express admiration and even some degree of envy for your ability to take a true, healthy vacation. And when you return home there will be new business waiting for you — guarantied!