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Last night leaving the grocery store as I was putting bags in my car, back door wide open a couple bags still in the cart, my purse sitting on the seat, a man approached me.
“Do you have some potatoes for supper?”
He spoke so softly that I didn’t understand him. But I also wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me and hadn’t seen him come up behind me.
I wasn’t scared but further from the store I might have been. Yet he was maybe 25. And thin. He was in a new-looking white parka but he was as thin as my 11-year-old nephew.
“… some potatoes or something for supper?”
I took too long to answer processing, and then said, “No, I’m sorry.”
As I got into my car, the reality being I didn’t have potatoes I had kale/chard and broccoli pretty much, it had been a produce run, it donned on me.
He was begging.
Hours before I had done a podcast interview with a fitness professional and author. One of the points we touched on was the fact that when prospects or your fitness customers come to you or I they are asking for help, they are extremely vulnerable.
It doesn’t matter if they’re CEOs or hospital administrators, managers, or mayors. They are vulnerable.
Asking for help is one of the absolute hardest things most of us do. We’d rather help someone else. Even if its a slight inconvenience to help someone else most of us would rather have to help a friend move than have to ask friends to help us move.
During the last five years I’ve gone through a lot of growing pains. I’ve had to ask for help so many times. I’ve been offered help so many times. It’s still not easy.
Asking my family to come help pack my house up, my friend and ex-husband to help watch my house, my niece offering to put me up in her house… and so much more. I joined a mastermind group with a room full of talented smart people and mentors but then have to ASK for help with specific things.
I don’t know if it’s admitting I don’t know it all, or the risk of feeling that impostor syndrome (what if they know who I really am), or a combination of those and more… but asking for help is tough. It – the asking – has brought me to tears more times in the last five years than I care to count. It began in fact exactly six years ago. My funds were dwindling and one of my family members offered a loan. I think I’ll never forget the exact chair I was sitting on in the exact room crying as we talked about it. It is not what you see for yourself at 49.
When your prospects and your fitness customers ask for help some of them too will cry. It’s not about 20 lbs. they want to lose or being out of shape, but what it represents for them. They’re lives may feel out of control. They’re not where they want to be and this is hard evidence they can no longer ignore.
I drove away from the store, feeling bad. Any other time I may have allowed myself to feel like I was the victim, that someone should be monitoring the parking lot better, that the beggar needed to get a job or a host of other reactions.
But not last night.
This time I realized that it wasn’t him that upset me. It was the way I reacted. Knowing what I know about having to ask for help to get through hard times and realizing the way that shows up won’t always be in a healthy happy environment with people in life circumstances more similar to mine than different, I should have responded differently.
The truth was I didn’t have cash on me, I don’t carry any, and my veggie-rich bags weren’t what he wanted.
But the way I reacted suggested that he was so very different than me.
And that, simply, is not true.
In the instance your fitness customer is telling you what they’re struggling with, listen. Hear them. Respect the trust they’ve just placed in you. That alone may be the difference between you getting the opportunity to help and simply getting a client for those few short introductory sessions who then move on without making any real change in his or her life.
I drove away thinking how close I’d come to feeling resentful of someone asking.
No one makes that shit up. No one wants to be in that moment. I had to remind myself of that sitting at the stop light turning to go home to a warm house and full refrigerator.
In a place of such abundance, there is simultaneously such need. From the parking lot at the Safeway I could see lights of million dollar homes in the foothills. Yet, here was someone so raw he was asking for potatoes.
Sometimes the need is in that person who appears to have such abundance. Don’t let the new parka or the title or the flat-ironed hair fool you.
Listen to your customers.
Even before you give them the service that will help them, you’re giving them the safe space to be vulnerable in. That space is reserved for significant others… and in many cases, for you, in these times we’re in.