Last week, I got a call like no other I have ever received. My last nerve was already frayed from a really challenging week, and I was running out the door to see my son play his last soccer game for the season (which I absolutely didn’t want to be late for). I should not have picked up the office phone. But I did.
The young woman on the other line asked, “Is this, um (fumbling around for the name of the company), the coaching company? I said, “Yes, this is Kathy Caprino. What can I do for you?”
This is how the conversation went:
Caller: “Do you have a few minutes to speak?”
Kathy: “Uh, I’m sorry, not really – but is this about wanting some coaching?”
Caller: “Well, yes and no. My husband and I live in a Canada and we are moving to the U.S. but we are unsure what the best states are to move to, for the work we do. I don’t have any money to pay you for coaching, but I was hoping you would help.”
* * * *
I receive now literally thousands of requests for free help – sadly, many that are disrespectful, rude, pushy — but I still find it very hard to walk away when someone needs help. But this time, I felt very irritated at what felt like a total lack of understanding of the magnitude of what she was asking.
The conversation continued…:
Kathy: “If you don’t have any money to pay me, how were you thinking this would work?” (I meant this as a challenge, but she didn’t get it.)
Caller: “I thought we could both send you our resumes and you can review them and tell us what states are best for us.”
* * * *
At this point, my head exploded – right there, all over my desk. This woman, who doesn’t have the courtesy to figure out my or my company’s name, and didn’t bother to share hers, has the gall to ask me to review TWO resumes, evaluate her line of work is as well as her husband’s, and tell her what states she should move to! I was floored.
I went onto explain that I receive hundreds of requests each month for free help, and as such, I am unable to give tailored recommendations to folks who aren’t my clients. However, I have tons of free resources for folks wanting to change careers. This type of career help she wanted (or “work” on my part) demands my time and energy, and that requires payment.
I said I’d be happy to share my free resources in an email. Unbelievably, instead of backing off, she kept on and said, “But could I ask just one question?”
I said “NO. Send me an email with your question, I’ll forward along some free resources that should help,” and I hung up. I was furious for the entire night (and late to the soccer game).
Now I realize that much of this involves an ineffectual boundary of mine that needs to be bolstered. But what I really wanted to say was this,” Would you walk into a Hertz Rental Car business and ask to drive one of their cars from Albany to Rochester and not pay one red cent? It’s disrespectful to ask a career coach to help you with your career in this way and not think of how to offer any way to compensate him/her.”
I wanted to share another truth too which is, “YOU personally need to do the work of building your career, not ask others to do what you should do. Have you done any research at all on your own to try to determine which locations are best for you?”
The problem is, I didn’t say any of this, nor did I share the most important message, which is “I feel it’s rude and selfish of you to continue pushing for more, even after I’ve said no.”
I realize that everyone’s “truth” is subjective, and the caller may have had a completely different view of this entire interchange. That said, it’s critical for a happy and well-lived life that we share our version of the truth (as lovingly as we can) when it’s important to.
So why didn’t I confront the caller and tell the truth as I saw it? Here are the 10 reasons why:
1) I didn’t want to be disliked or appear offensive
2) I was afraid she’d tweet out that I’m a mean, nasty crabapple if I told her the truth about her disrespectful request
3) I second-guessed my feelings and thoughts (that perhaps she was just ignorant of the right protocol of asking for help and not being pushy)
4) I’m so overwhelmed with the number of requests I’m receiving for free help this year, that I’m resentful (of a lot of things)
5) I don’t like myself when I’m mean, and telling her what I thought about her request felt “mean” to me
6) I typically regret when I’m hurtful and not kind and gentle
7) The angry truth in my head can make a BOOMING sound, and I’m afraid to unleash that
8) I love to build up people’s confidence, not tear them down
9) I have a reputation to uphold (of being a kind, compassionate person)
10) Finally, it’s challenging for me to tell the truth in an appropriate way when I’m that stressed and angry
When I look back at these reasons (both subconscious and conscious) for not telling the truth to this caller, I can see now that these reasons are just latent fears and excuses.
Here’s how the list above translates into fears:
I was afraid…
- Of being rejected and punished, or creating a bad reputation if I spoke up
- Of trusting myself and my instincts to go with what I wanted to say
- Of letting go and saying “no” to people and endeavors I no longer want to focus on
Finally, there is one more reason I didn’t tell the truth. I knew that the “truth” I wanted to share was on the mean side (lacking in understanding and compassion), and was not coming from my highest self. I also realized that at that moment I lacked the adequate self-mastery to neutralize my emotions so I could tell my version of the truth as I like to, with as much love, care, and kindness as possible.
These are long-standing challenges and fears of mine that have stemmed from my upbringing and childhood. In short, I was afraid to tell the truth as a kid. It’s taken me years of therapy, energy healing work, introspection and internal work to get to the place where I am regarding being honest. But clearly, there’s more work to be done.
I share this to help you understand that even folks with some training (I’m a trained marriage and family therapist, career coach and speaker) around truth-telling and communicating powerfully, sometimes fail to tell the truth as they want to, when they want to. I share this too so that you might begin to look at why and when you don’t tell the truth in your life and career.
What have I learned from this? That I need to start speaking up more and if that makes me more unpopular, so be it. I’m prepared for that. I also need to create a stronger boundary so that those who want to take advantage of my time and services without compensation, can’t get through to me so easily. I need to say “no” when the answer is “no.” Finally, I have realized that I need to take care of myself more these days when the professional demands are very high and my time to restore and heal is minimal.
All great lessons that are highly relevant to today’s professional women.
Now’s your turn…are you failing to tell the truth (as you see it) in your life and work, and is that getting in the way of your health and well-being?
Review my list above of the fears that keep us from sharing the truth, and see if they resonate. If so, now is the time to speak up (and confront, if necessary) more consistently, confidently and lovingly. Do it with me.