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re•sent•ful/riˈzentfəl/ Adjective: Feeling or expressing bitterness or indignation at having been treated unfairly.

When Bill came to see me for coaching, he told me was in a mid-life crisis.

This was very unsettling for him, because all his life, he had been very determined and achievement focused. And according to any criteria, he had achieved a lot: built a business from scratch that now employed 120 people; and made himself rich, well known and highly respected in the process.

But Bill was in a bad way when he and I first met. He was not sure whether he wanted to continue with his business. It had been through some bad times in the recent economic downturn, but he recognised that it was poised on the brink of growing from a small to a medium sized company. And Bill knew that if he chose to put the work and creativity in to enable it to grow, he could move it to the next level.

I was very curious as to what had got in the way of Bill’s drive and determination. The person in front of me was not the kind of person who could have achieved the sort of business growth it was evident that Bill had achieved. What had gone wrong?

As we chatted, and Bill began to share more about his approach and his feelings, it became more evident what had gone wrong. Bill was resentful. So resentful, that he was at risk of throwing his whole life’s work away.

I began to probe. What was he so resentful about?

Bill felt treated very unfairly by his clients. He believed that he was a good person and he liked to give a little more than required to his clients. For this reason, he found himself often throwing in ‘freebies’: extra time, a little more product, and more service.

Bill acknowledged that he was giving these ‘freebies’ as a marketing tool. He hoped it would lead to more business and more referrals. He also hoped that it would make his clients appreciate him and his company even more.

However, he felt that his clients were taking significant advantage of him. They always seemed to push him to give even more than he offered or wanted to give. And Bill did not think this was right. He was deeply resentful about it and about the ‘takers’ in his client population.

I was curious. To achieve as Bill had in his business life, he had to be a very pro-active and go-getting kind of guy. One who was not likely to allow his personal feelings to get in the way of his achievements. But there was clearly something quite deep going on here. And if we did not deal with it, it would get in the way of his results.

So I asked the 100% question. In what way was Bill 100% responsible for the problem? We batted this question around for a while until Bill was ready to see that the source of the problem was within him, not outside in the world. (Regular readers of these tips will know that once we can see the source of the problem within, we also get to the source of the solution – within. See the tip on Entitlement vs. Empowerment)

Once Bill was willing to accept that he might be responsible for the problem, he began to explore how this had happened. As our conversation progressed, he began to see that he was not being clear about his parameters and boundaries when he offered extra services or products to people. And of course, if other people sense that a boundary is not clearly defined, they will push at it until the definition becomes clear. (We all continue to operate as children in this way, testing out the limits of what is possible.)

Bill began to see that he needed to define how much he was prepared to give and how often and to whom. And then he needed to set this boundary clearly within himself and to respect himself enough to commit to stick to it. He realised that if he could do this, clients would respect the boundaries too.

When Bill came back for his next session, he was in a very different space. He had done a lot of work on himself, getting clear about what he was willing to give to clients free and what he would need to charge for. He realised that he had the right to set these boundaries. In fact, he realised that it was imperative he do so, in order to prevent the resentment from growing within him again.

And 6 months later, Bill has moved on with his business. He saw the throttlehold that resentment had on the business and realised how it was limiting what he could achieve and turning clients off (no matter how many ‘freebies’ were on offer). When Bill began to see the value of what he offered and to trust that the clients who really wanted it would purchase it anyway, he stopped offering too much. Instead, what he did offer freely to clients was what he wanted to give.

This enabled Bill to have much ‘cleaner’ interactions with his clients and as a result, they rewarded him with more business, because they felt the difference too.

Do you see any of yourself in Bill? If you notice even a tiny whiff of resentment somewhere inside, you need to know that this will act as throttlehold on what you can achieve in life and the rewards you will get from this achievement.

Resentment comes when we feel treated unfairly. In other words, resentment is what we feel entitled to, when we believe we are victims of a situation or a person.

In truth, though, we are always part of the game. We are never really victims! At some level, we always enable or create the situation we then feel entitled to be resentful about.

Do you have the courage to ask the 100% question as Bill did?

© Anne Fuller-Good
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