I love my work.
I love it for lots of reasons that I’ve written about before–the clients I see humble me with their courage and stun me with their growth. I am often surprised by joy as we work through the difficult stuff of life.
Not just like them. Love them.
Let me give you one little window of something that feels real and hard and authentic and beautiful that happened at our office last week…
First, a little context: We work hard to do good therapy with clients…to spend the hour really listening to clients into a deeper understanding and heating.
We also recognize that good therapy happens with having good administration: clear appointment times, starting on time, doing what we say we are going to do, responding to people’s messages promptly and all that other stuff that have clients know that outside of session, we value them and their time.
The therapist know how passionate I am that we be as respectful of clients outside of session as in.
So…I got an email from Lindsey saying that he had goofed…and that clients had suffered because of it.
The email, whose subject line stark and blunt: Double Booking, said, in part [with changes here to protect confidentiality of the client]:
…Sadly, he showed up for a session that I had booked with another client. I apologized, owned the error as such, and offered him a free session by way of apology…I owe you an apology too, of course. I understand that this affects our reputation – one you’ve worked hard to earn – as well as our bottom line. There will be one unpaid for hour on the books because of my error. Would you like me to pay for the company’s share of profits for that hour, as it is essentially lost revenue to you? Is there any other way which I can make amends? I look forward to seeing this client again, and am grateful I have been given another shot.Sincerely,Lindsey
A vulnerable, humble apology that accepts responsibility, acknowledges the impacts, and offers to make amends is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Sigh. The way he addressed the issue so directly in such a respectful way to myself and the client…well, it warmed my heart, even as I was annoyed about the error.
I heard the mistake clearly outlined, and didn’t like that a client was negatively impacted. But I could clearly see, as Lindsey owned the error, he could then do what it took to work towards making it right with the injured parties, at his own expense.
I didn’t need him to make up the lost revenue to the practice, but I love that he offered. We know that everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes. We need to have margins in the business, in our lives for others to make mistakes and then extend grace–second chances.
I did appreciate that he could acknowledge the impact of this on Bergen and Associates Counselling, as well as the client.
Being heard and understood is so important, isn’t it?
About 15 minutes after I received his email, Lindsey came in to start his therapy day in the room where I had just wrapped up my therapy day. I acknowledged the email and together we had a conversation to look to tighten up the systems to reduce the likelihood of this happening again. I let him know that I could see he felt guilty about the error, and expressed compassion.
Believe me, we therapists all HATE making mistakes that impact clients, as this one had.
The really cool part of this is what happened after this”
Lindsey told me that he noticed that as he was writing the email and coming in to see me that he noticed that he felt no fear in his body’s reactions. He was surprised to notice he didn’t feel fear. Typically, he said, making a mistake like this would be Bad Trouble and he would be worried sick about letting me know of his error.
Lindsey told me that he realized in this that he trusted me to hear the error and be constructive, not destructive, about it with him. He said that he liked working at a place where his Boss (It feels sorta ill-fitting when he calls me that, but sorta sweet the way only Lindsey pulls it off, which he does regularly) was one that he could look to, to help him with his goofs. He said that he, as many people are, have lived in a world where Bosses are Bad Trouble.
Lindsey told me that I was Good Trouble and thanked me for it. Lindsey has this quirky way of putting things…and as he told me I was Good Trouble, I felt like I was receiving one of the most beautiful affirmations I had ever received.
Lindsey let me know that I was safe for him. That he could tell me something important that would not be easy for me to hear, but that he trusted me to hear the bad thing in a good way. His experience of me was one that had him know, ahead of time, that acknowledging a mistake to me would go well.
It’s one of the markers of the ability to authentically connect…to hear hard things, and not react harshly about the bad thing, but grateful to the person speaking that they dared to tell you the hard thing. To connect meaningfully in the middle of a mistake is something that is very important to me…because to do so only happens in the context of trust.
Lindsey trusts me.
And Lindsey gave me the gift of living out of that trust. And letting me know of his trust by outright telling me.
What an incredible gift Lindsey gave me, to trouble himself to tell me that.
In my books, Lindsey is Good Trouble too! 🙂