What happens when your client expresses an opinion that make you sick?
Or she lets you know that her political views are completely opposite to yours?
What happens when your values are being attacked and the challenge comes from the very person who’s fees have paid your mortgage this month?
I had been working with her for a few weeks, the high powered executive who told me that it was clear that she was not cut out for motherhood. She went on to describe how she was quite happy to have ‘hired help’ bring up her children.
The successful Manager who had completed an ‘exit’ from his start-up and had a huge dilemma around where to invest his money. He told me how he vetted his investment options. Hiring choices related to ethnicity and skin color were the primary consideration, he wanted all white, male run companies.
The anxious mother told me that she was horrified that her son was about to marry a terribly ugly woman. It was a disaster, she couldn’t invite her friend to the wedding.
The coach who told me that he despised the majority of his clients but they paid him so well.
In each and every case, we have a choice.
To dismiss the views as inappropriate and offensive, dismiss the people as ill-informed and ignorant.
Or to take a very different approach.
To discover the story.
You see, most people have complex stories that have slowly (over years) brought them to a place of extreme views and inflexible positions. And most of those stories are both painful and unexamined.
The painful story is usually related to an experience that left them disempowered and vulnerable. This story is often a place where the perpetrator, the person who caused the pain, was someone that they trusted, someone they probably loved.
The painful story makes them promise themselves ‘never again’. They don’t ever what to risk vulnerability or getting hurt and they think that attack is the best form of defense.
And yes the story is often unexamined.
What do I mean by that? That they have never thought it through, figured out what really happened and what was interpretation. Often the interpretation is a child’s view and with hindsight and experience, we can see the story in a totally different light.
When we examine our stories, agree to see them in a new perspective and dare to tell this new version of the story, adamant and extreme opinions tend to fade away.
When we examine our stories and give space to others to tell theirs, we see what a mirror a story can be. We see that the opinion that makes us sick, could be the exact place we need to show compassion. The extreme view could be the expression of confusion, pain and reaction. We don’t need to run from it.
We can meet this story with patience, understanding and above all humility; for we too have extreme opinions that are based on unexamined stories.
When have you heard a story that made your skin crawl?
Share the experience below.