Íse Murphy

When the client has feedback

I sat on the train frantically searching online for “what no one tells you about consultancy” holding one hand on my chest encouraging deep breaths as the other looted my phone for anything that could temper this panic.

I was out and about in town after submitting a 16,000 word report the previous day, when my client called asking to discuss it. Immediately my body sank into a pit of shaking fear. My thoughts?

“Oh God what have I said? What have I omitted? Did I insult someone, did I say the wrong thing? Was what I said not good enough”

So on..so forth.

I became lightheaded as my heart raced. Using my hand on my chest I attempted to recruit deep breaths, a practice I learned from years of meditation, dealing with anxiety and teaching Pilates.

It didn’t work.

I became upset with myself because I pride on knowing how to deal with emotionally challenging situations, it’s what I’ve trained in and written about for years. Yet in this instance I couldn’t calm down.

Then I remembered that trying to exert an outcome on the experience I was having was sort of gaslighting myself. I needed to recognise I was going through this panic, call it out, validate the experienceand remind myself that my inner parent was here supporting my inner child who was afraid.

So I called a friend. Thankfully she answered. I asked her if she was free and if she could stay on the phone while I was having this panic. I explained what triggered it and she continued to talk with me until I got home.

What surprised me the most was I knew exactly why I was feeling this way. Unpacking the trigger point; the client wanted to feedback on my independent review report i.e. 16,000 words of my professional opinion. This is what I was looking for when searching “what they don’t tell you as a consultant”. I wanted it to tell me “this work may be the most vulnerable work you ever do, as it is baring your soul, your experience, your opinion to others who are paying you a lot of money to do it”.

Consultancy and advising people on how to make events better and safer is what I have always wanted to do. I finally have had the first big experience of doing it solo and I was not expecting to feel so vulnerable and worried. I guess there’s also the underlying thread of being a woman and having your opinion heard in a world that never really valued it, the patterns run deep.

What happened in this case was I was attributing my self worth to my work. When the client wanted to feedback on the report, I took it personally. I saw it as an attack on who I am as a person, rather than the role I carry out in my career. They are two very different things. One is priceless, the other is worth money.

I knew this because it has been the theme I have grappled with all year. As I transitioned from full time work to contract work, to freelance, and finally to running my own business, it was like layers of attributing my sense of self worth to the organisation I worked for, the contract role title, the types of freelance jobs, were being stripped away. I felt so unworthy life didn’t feel worth living anymore.

It was only when I hit that bottom was when things began to change.

I finally triggered the sore point of this connection, providing me with the opportunity to break it. I was not my job and my job was not me. I as a human am priceless, whereas my job can be priced.

This knowledge still didn’t change the fact I was panicking, but it helped me understand what was going on. I was able to take charge of the situation and parent my emotions (thank you Deadloch tv show). I started breathing deeply, phoned a friend and rationalised what was happening. I didn’t try to stop it but created a safe environment to allow it to pass.

I think the key here is to not try to change the experience, but create a safe space to allow it to process. If I had tried to stop it from happening I was only prolonging its return, and it would only harm me further because I was not recognising that I was going through a challenging situation. It’s like anyone who tries to cover up a negative experience we are having instead of validating it, it doesn’t feel good, does it? It doesn’t feel like we are being seen, recognised or respected. By trying to dam our own emotions we are disrespecting ourselves. By parenting our emotions, we are taking command of the situation and taking care of ourselves in a practical way during a vulnerable experience.

I got home, ended the call with my friend and prepared myself to speak to the client.

Their feedback? A few grammatical errors.

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#anxiety #awareness #reflection