HYCS #8 – Have You Listened to Yourself Lately?

HYCS #8 – Have You Listened to Yourself Lately?

The first client meeting on a new project is simple:  You’ve got to distinguish your business from your client’s business.

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Word Count:  811
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Assignment Time: 20-60 minutes to listen to your recording
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One of my favorite Saturday Night Live sketches was the therapist who responded to her clients by saying “Have you listened to yourself lately?  Are you listening to yourself?”  It didn’t much matter what her client said, the therapist always said the same thing.

When I first saw the sketch, it was a dead-on parody of the 1970s therapy culture, and it made me weep with laughter.  Back then, I never thought this phrase would come back to haunt me, but it has.

In the initial meeting with a client, it’s especially important to listen to yourself as well as listening to your client.   In particular, you should be listening for whose business you are in.

The 3 Kinds of Business

I love what Byron Katie says about the 3 kinds of business.  It takes all the guesswork out of healthy boundaries.  There are only 3 kinds:

1. Your business

2. Their business

3. God’s business

Everything falls into one of these 3 categories.  There are no exceptions.   You’ll have to listen to yourself very carefully to distinguish among them.  Here’s an example of how this works with clients:

“We need this right away or we’ll lose subscribers.  Can you get it done by Friday?”

Client’s business:  To set goals for their enterprise.  To set deadlines.  To make requests and demands.  To push for what they want when they want it.

Your business:  To do your best, no more and no less.  To live to fight another day.  To husband your resources and capabilities.  To apply your expertise in the most effective way possible.  To enjoy your work.

God’s business:  Reality, such as the laws of physics, and the limits of human endurance.  All results.  The future.  All events beyond human control, such as weather, traffic, and cycles of all kinds.

You’ll notice that the alignment between these 3 kinds of business isn’t very good.  If you take this natural lack of alignment personally, and make it your responsibility, you’ve already left your own business and jumped into God’s business. It sounds like this: “If I start right now, I get it done by Friday.  Let me get out of your hair and get this moving.”

This won’t end well.  Someone else’s urgency and lack of clarity can never be your business.  As my Italian cousin Mauro would say “E non possible!”  If you proceed,  you’re opening yourself up to being blamed for something over which you have no control:  The success of your client’s business strategy.

Let’s say you wisely dodge the urgency and lack of clarity traps, but decide that meeting your client’s stated business goal is your responsibility.  This one is trickier:  Yes, you have relevant expertise to offer, but you’re once again out of your business.  This time you’re into your client’s business.  It sounds like this:  “I’ve had quite a bit of success increasing subscribers 20% with ponies and glow sticks.  How about I get that started for you?”

You can kiss any partnership with your client goodbye once you’ve gotten in their business.  They’ve just delegated their problem to you.  Chances are you’ll be chasing them for the rest of the project.

How to Stay in Your Business

Staying in your business means noticing the state of alignment between the 3 kinds of business and commenting on it in a way that’s useful.

I find it works well to see myself standing still.  I’m pausing while I consider whether there is some way I can help.  I am looking for a better alignment between the 3 kinds of business before I leap into action.  I might say:

“I have so many questions!  Here are 2:  1. What is it you want done by Friday?  2.  How will it retain subscribers? “


“Friday, you say?  Huh.  That’s doubtful.  I wonder if there’s some other way I can help.  What other ideas have you considered?


“You’re in a tight spot, which must be difficult.  How many subscribers do you stand to lose?”

Partnerships are formed between two people who stay in their own business.

You’ll do your best consulting work from that place.


It’s time to record your self.  Pick the client that most often gets you doing what you’d rather not.  Ask you client’s permission to record the conversation, then listen to at least some of it.  In particular, listen to who’s business you’re in.  Zero in on the exact moment you step out of your own business.  What triggers that?  What are you anxious about?  Do you assume your business isn’t as important as your client’s or God’s?  Do you think you can predict the future?

Don’t forget to remind yourself of all the things you do well.