No one wants to be like this. Maybe your need to help others at your own expense was rooted in childhood. Or maybe you just have an innate need to nurture and comfort. Either way, there’s no shame in that game. You just have to learn how to protect yourself and your sanity from the potential fallout.
When I first started out, I had more days that I care to recollect spent with my emotions being controlled by ‘puppet masters’. These are people who are difficult or even impossible to please. Try as you might there is simply no satiating their needs. They seem to be comfortable only when immersed in negativity and drama. They seem more comfortable living in their problem than in trying to find a solution to it. Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve run across clients like this before. And because you want to help them, you become like a sponge, absorbing all of their negativity and angst. You don’t want to, it just happens.
You know the people I’m talking about. Conversations with them tend to be very one-sided. They really don’t want your advice or counsel. They probably don’t even want you to fix whatever they are complaining about. They just want you to be a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen. And if they do expect your help, they want you to do so at your expense. Whether it’s a monetary or an emotional expense (often both). Clearly, that’s a problem. You may be left feeling used, taken advantage of, and emotionally drained. Now, I’m not takling about a friend or family member who’s going through a difficult time and needs a sympathetic ear. I’m talking about the chronic puppet masters. Those clients who seem to have made a career out of jumping from professional to professional seeking validation and sympathy. You know who they are. (So do they.)
It’s time to put an end to all of that. Because the less time you spend on trivialities, the more time you have to spend working on your business and cultivating your own personal happiness.
People naturally want to be around happy people. If you’re fresh off of an interaction with a puppet master, the fallout may spill over into the rest of your day and bleed into your other business interactions. It’s hard to steady yourself after such encounters. But when you’re around motivated, happy clients everything changes. Clarity increases, creativity abounds, and you actually look forward to the work you’re doing. There’s a delicious mutual respect. The results are often fantastic for you and your customer.
So why don’t we work harder to find out ideal customers? Most likely because we don’t realize the toll it’s taking on us. Hear this: Whether at home or in business, when you find yourself bowing to the continual and irrational dissatisfaction and negativity of others, you’re playing an active role in your own unhappiness. And in some cases, you may even be less respected for it.
Learning how to cut the puppet strings and not let your day-to-day life be driven by these emotional vampires might be more difficult than it sounds. In part, because it sort of feels like we are teaching ourselves how to be less kind and less accommodating. On the surface, this makes sense. But too much of anything is almost never a good idea. Being kind and accommodating is one thing, but allowing someone to continually tap into your emotional or financial reserves is quite another.
Letting go of negative clients can be difficult, in part because we want to see other people succeed. It’s gratifying to feel like you have the chance to play a role in another person’s happiness. It’s just not okay when it’s at the expense of your own.
And you’re not alone. Somewhere along the way, every single successful person in life, business and otherwise has inevitably had to distance themselves from the negativity that seems so prevalent out there. Sometimes they’re friends. Sometimes family. Sometimes they’re customers. In any of these cases it can be difficult to justify keeping a healthy distance. It’s not easy, but it’s essential.
Understanding who your ideal customers are will go a long way toward helping you forge healthy relationships with the people you are most likely to work best with. Here’s a free quiz to help you identify your perfect clients.
The good news is that once you’ve learned this necessary business (and life) skill, you need not learn it again. You just have to apply it. Much easier, and far more effective. Once you’ve let people know that you’re moving on, they will inevitably find a new ‘victim’. And the sooner, the better.
Surround yourself with quality people. Learning when and how to say ‘no’ and recognize when a relationship is more trouble than it’s worth will not only help you in your personal life, it will be of great value to you as you grow your business. Happiness and self-respect should be a part of everyone’s business plan.
I’m a Brand Therapist® providing psychology-based branding, copywriting, and consulting to individuals and micro-businesses in the creative arena. My signature services will help you discover and articulate your most authentic self so you can tell better stories, make more meaningful connections, and do more profound work.