Exhausted woman

Do You Experience Energy Drain Around Certain Clients?

During my first few years a physical therapist, I had a lot of clients who drained the crap out of me.

I not so affectionately referred to them as energy vampires.

I’d dread seeing their name on my schedule and prayed they would get better quickly so I could stop working with them.

I blamed 100% of the problem on them, telling myself that they were just too  <X> (insert needy, volatile, angry, demanding, etc.)

But the problem was with me, too.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a “leaky mindset” that made it easier for me to lose energy to these clients and feel depleted after working with them.

Mindset leaks are the equivalent of open windows in your house. When the temperature outside matches a temperature that’s comfortable for you, you don’t notice the windows are open.

But when the temperature outside gets uncomfortably hot, you notice the windows are open because all of the cool air (energy) rushes out of your house, leaving you hot, sweaty and irritable.

Similarly, when the attitude of your clients is comfortable to you, your mindset leaks aren’t noticeable because they’re a non-issue.

The leaks don’t become a problem until your client’s behavior is “too hot” for you, leaving you vulnerable to energy depletion.

Symptoms of fatigue, stress or self-doubt following an interaction with a client are all common signs that you have a mindset leak.

For empathetic entrepreneurs and professionals, preventing energy leaks around clients is key to maintaining both your productivity and passion for what you do.

Signs Of Energy Drain Due To Mindset Leaks

When I felt drained around clients but couldn’t quite figure out why, I asked myself these 3 questions:

1- Does this client have a problem that I know how to solve?

2- Is the client taking responsibility for their problem or am I?

3- Am I clearly articulating what is OK and what’s not OK in how I work with clients?

Each of these questions corresponds to the three main mindset leaks that are common in empathetic entrepreneurs.

How To Identify And Repair Energy Leaks

Mindset Leak #1: Trying to solve problems out of your scope of expertise.

When I first started as a physical therapist, I believed that I needed to be able to “fix” every client who was referred to me. I thought saying “This isn’t my area of expertise” would make me look stupid.

Believing this led me to try to fix problems that I wasn’t good at solving.

I spent significant amounts of time and energy trying to make their problems fit the solutions I offered, only to realized 6-8 weeks down the line that my approach wasn’t helping them.

The Mindset Repair:  Give yourself permission to refer non-ideal clients to someone else.

Once I let go of the idea that I had to be an expert at fixing EVERY problem, I used these three questions to figure out if my client had a problem that was in my area of expertise:

  1. Do I know what this problem is?
  2. Do I know how to solve it?
  3. Do I enjoy solving it?

If you can’t say yes to all 3 of these questions, then refer your client to someone who can 🙂

Mindset Leak #2: Taking responsibility for your client’s feelings.

I had a client limp in with a severely injured knee about 10 years ago and tell me, “I have a ski trip planned in 7 weeks. If I miss it, it’s going to be your fault.”

After examining her and seeing her MRI results, I knew her recovery would likely take closer to 12 weeks (or more).

But I didn’t tell her that in the consult because I didn’t want to “make” her upset. Instead, I hoped that by some miracle she would get better faster than I expected.

For the next 2 weeks, I got a stomach ache every time she came in and mentioned her trip because I knew she wasn’t going to be ready.

On her 4th visit, I finally told her the truth. (And as expected, she wasn’t happy.)

My mindset mistake was implicitly agreeing with her that it would be my fault if she missed her trip.

The Mindset Repair: You are responsible for sharing your expertise and communicating honestly with your clients; you aren’t responsible for how they feel about the information you give them.

Every empathetic entrepreneur that I know has compassion for the struggles and upset feelings their clients experience.

However, there is a difference between being compassionate and being controlling.

When you try to control your clients’ reactions, you stifle the development of important processing skills that enable them to be more resilient in the face of adversity.

When you provide a service to your clients, you are responsible for giving 100% of your effort and expertise to them, even when that expertise might include a truth they don’t want to hear.

Your clients — not you! — are 100% responsible for the feelings they have about that truth.

Mindset Leak #3: Failing to set boundaries with your clients.

Empathetic people often make the mistake of thinking that in order to provide good customer service, you have to do whatever it takes to please the client, no matter what.

But trying to please your clients at any cost often leaves you depleted and drained, unable to provide your best service.

To provide a high level of customer service, you need to clearly define the conditions under which your best work takes place. This is called setting a boundary.

Brené Brown’s definition of a boundary is telling someone “This is OK, that’s not OK.”

When I started out in my physical therapy practice, setting boundaries was hard for me because I was a serial people pleaser.

I would feel bad when people would complain about not being able to get an appointment with me, so I’d work them in at lunch or at the end of the day at a time that didn’t really work for me just to placate them.

That didn’t go well because I would either be angry at myself that I had worked them in over my only down time during the day (lunch), or I’d be so tired by the end of the day that I couldn’t complete a sentence.

Neither of these scenarios set me up to do my best work.

The Mindset Repair: You serve clients at your highest level by honoring and communicating how you work best.

There is one magic phrase that gave me the confidence to  set a boundary without feeling the pressure to please. (I wish I had known this early in my career.)

That phrase was, “Here’s how I work.”

Following that, I would lay out all of the details for how we were going to work together, including my expectations of them and what they could expect from me.

This statement is direct without being mean, and it sets you up as a leader in the relationship.

If you find yourself drained after interacting with a client, check your mindset for these three leaks:

  1. Trying to solve problems outside of your scope of expertise.
  2. Taking responsibility for your clients feelings.
  3. Failing to set boundaries with your clients.

Which leak will you address in your work?