If you are like me, there are days that a work request doesn’t sit right with you. That may be too charitable; it doesn’t sit straight, and you are annoyed, peeved, and irritated. The feeling festers, but you can’t quite pinpoint what is bothering you. It just nags at you, feeding a deep discontentment with the task at hand in your gut.
Recently I was experiencing this. A client was requesting work that just bothered me. But I couldn’t identify why. As the irritation built up day after day, I started to feel like it was impacting my communication with the client. If you work with us, you know that is pretty unusual. We pride ourselves on patience and compassion in our work.
Because I don’t find it acceptable to feel like snapping at my clients, I had to assess what was going on in my mind and heart.
Let’s back up a minute. I want to be more specific without ‘outing’ the particular client. I was getting a request for a complicated feedback system within the website we were building. To the client, this would be a critical value-add for their customer, but for seemingly no good reason was an annoyance to me.
So I had to ask myself, why? Why was I so annoyed? Clients make requests all the time without inciting my internal ire. Why was this so irritating?
As I cut into the layers of why I was irritated, I discovered that I fundamentally disagreed with the business choice. In other words, if it were my business, I would not be focusing resources on this feature yet. It was a distraction from their core business and the goal at hand – the proverbial cart before the horse. Then it dawned on me, underneath the ‘why’ was wisdom that my experience and expertise created.
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At the root of my frustration was a more profound value that I could offer.
Do you also feel that irritation rise in your business, at your workplace, or with your boss? Start to ask why. Don’t just dismiss it or let it build into rage. When you start cutting back the layers of frustration with why you will find your unique value contribution. Therein lies the origin story of the indispensable ‘Linchpin‘ that Seth Godin famously wrote about.
How do you cut into the frustration?
The adage ‘peel the onion’ holds up – it often takes multi-layers of asking why to reveal the actual cause. Here is what it looked like for the above situation:
I am so irritated with this idea. Why?
Because it is a dumb idea. Why?
No one will use it. Why?
There aren’t enough customers yet. Why?
The business is too young. Why does that matter?
This feature will be a distraction for users and business resources. Why is that important?
It would be better to focus money and energy on making phase 1 of this project a success. New features should come once this phase finds its footing. We should concentrate on new features that directly lead to growth.
It took more than a few why questions to cut away to the core. Once I did, I discovered that my experience had triggered the irritation and that there was something valuable to offer my client.
While it might not be the most pleasant task to take inventory of our feelings, it is important to do so so that we can do the most effective work possible in the service of others. Besides, the journey to self-awareness is the best way to keep frustration from taking over our lives. Rather than wallowing in negative emotions, use that energy to find your way to the very core of what is bothering you.
This may open up new doors for you to express yourself and become more effective in the process. Ultimately, when you know yourself better you will be able to make better decisions for both you and your clients.
So join me in cutting into the irritation and uncovering that discontent’s unique value. Learn to recognize that there is always a deeper ‘why’ behind those feelings. At best, you will discover invaluable expertise that builds your brand and leads to continued success. At worst, you will calm your tumultuous mind by knowing yourself more fully. Either way, it is a complete win.