The other day my massage person and I were talking about how sometimes a long-term client just disappears for some amount of time, and then often returns some time later. I can’t be sure in all instances, but my guess is that what is often happening with this kind of stuff is something I call the Cuckoo Clock Phenomenon.
On some level the client acts as if you, the practitioner, live in a Cuckoo Clock, and between interactions with the client you are inside the clock waiting for them to chime the hour and ask you to come out. They are rightly thinking of themselves, not you.
When you are in a personal service type of profession like a coach, massage therapist, virtual assistant, etc., clients often end up leaving your ‘practice’ without warning. They just stop, which can leave you dangling.
In many ways this is just fine. You are providing a service, and that is how the client thinks of you. It’s not personal. For them, when you are not with them, they do not think of you. These are your clients, not your friends or family. You do the same thing. I don’t think of the dentist or the person who pet-sits my cat when I’m out of town in between when I need their services either.
Part of what gets this in a tangle is that when we provide a service based largely on our own selves, it can feel more personal when the client leaves or takes a long break. It very likely that if they do disappear it’s not about you. It’s about something else. That something else could be a myriad of things, many of which you haven’t even thought of.
One of the things I find intriguing about this, is that there is more often than not a money component in the disappearance. Or at least the illusion of a money piece. Let me give you an example of my very own!
When I first moved to Portland I was getting massages by a perfectly good massage therapist. (Yes, I think that at least two rubs a month are a necessity) All of a sudden, one day, I had the thought that “I can’t afford this any more!” First I kinda looked around and thought “Who said that?” Then I dug a little deeper.
Nothing had changed in my money situation—I had the funds to continue with the massages. What I finally realized is that what had changed is that I was simply tired of the method the person used. The massages were fine. I just needed a change. Frankly that was too weird and awkward for my brain to process, I had to make up a more viable reason—and money is always good for one of those. Of course, it costs too much. On some level that makes sense because I no longer valued the massage in the same way. What is really more likely is that “I can’t afford it” is a great excuse. Getting clear on this was very helpful to me. I got clear that I could still afford to get a massage, I just needed a different masseuse.
See here’s the deal. Money is the most taboo topic, ever! If you want to get out of something just bring up the money and people will quickly scurry away. And it goes deeper. Something like a massage, coaching, or fitness training are often thought of as indulgent, or selfish—not as self-care, growth, or improvement. When things get tough financially we are more likely to sacrifice those things that help us feel and do better with some kind of “things are already tough, so let’s make it harder—it will build character” logic.
This is a likely scenario when you have a client that all of a sudden disappears and then returns sometime later. The return indicates they liked the service you provided. If that’s true, then the disappearance was probably something about money. Or at least that the client thought was about money. And the client figured you will just be sitting inside the Cuckoo Clock waiting for their return, right?
Shell Tain, The Untangler
If you end up in this kind of money tangle as a practitioner or client give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com