The story of Rachel

Wicked Witch of the Company

I had just started working at a large international company, Madison (names have been changed). It was my first week on the job, and before this moment, not used hypnosis in a corporate environment. This made firsts for me.

Before I met the client in question, I was given a sorry tale by the previous consultant, other consultants I worked with, my team leader, in fact everyone except my boss (who didn't comment at all). This client was the worst. According to anyone I spoke to, the client argued, complained, yelled, asked the world and expected it yesterday. To make the client even more aggravating, they were one of the smallest that Madison had. According to all these people, the entire cause of this pain was one person. Her name was Rachel. She was our client interface. Everything we did, or didn't do, had to go through her.

So, 9 am Thursday, I'm wearing a suit, tie and shoes that hurt and I'm out at the client site for my first weekly meeting. The day before the meeting I had to keep reminding myself to make my own judgments of Rachel and not get caught up in all the rumor about her. I get introduced to the owner of the company and some of the technical staff, but still no Rachel. It's not until I got into the meeting room that I saw her for the first time.

My first impression of her 'severe'. Her skirt and jacket is all black, her silk shirt is a vibrant red. Her hair is tied back in a tight bun. Her eyes are piercing, her face tense and unmoving. She has gold ring on each finger, except on her left hand ring finger.

The introduction goes pleasantly enough. "Rachel, this is Michael, the new technical consultant. Michael, this is Rachel." There is no smile from her as we shook hands.

Suddenly we're into the meeting. Rachel grabs the 6 page issues sheet which doubles as an agenda. "New things from last week. The phones for the help desk are still not working. How long do we have to wait to get these fixed?" Her voice rising in pitch, the attack delivered with deliberate expertise.

Jim, my service delivery manager, falters, already on the back foot. He stammers a reply. "It's being worked on. I've talked to our phone guys, and they are having difficulty reconfiguring the call-in redirections. They assure me it should be fixed by lunchtime."

I thought that was good enough. However Rachel, already smelling blood, attacks again. "That's not good enough! We rely on those lines. And they haven't been working for the last three weeks."

Accepting the exaggeration, Jim plays defensive, a defeated tone creeping into his voice. "Yes, and we are still working on it. I'll call the technician after the meeting and get you an update."

It's two minutes into the meeting and I already understand why this client is so hated. The meeting continues for about twenty minutes like this. Jim sinks further and further into his chair, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead. Rachel gets more and more exacerbated and angry at our failures.

About this time, my name is mentioned in relation to one of the points raised. Having only recently started to understand the needs of the client, and only a basic understanding of the problems, I suddenly realize how much of a mess this is, and how much out of my depth I could be. My only goal at this point is to get Rachel working on my side.

"Seeing as we have Michael here," Rachel says, turning to me aggressively. "What are you doing about the database link?"

"What I am doing with the database link," I reply, letting all the contained anger I can muster seep into my voice, matching the tone Rachel just used. "Is to first identify what the actual problem is." Gradually, I allow my voice to return to a normal tone. "I've been attempting to get in contact with your technical lead, but haven't had a chance as yet." I end the sentence with a friendly, almost humorous tone.

Rachel, undaunted by my reply, attacks again, "You should talk to him after the meeting. I've seen him in the office this morning." Her tone, however, is more relaxed.

I match her tone again, then slowly change it to something more enjoyable for me, "I don't know if I have the time. I'll have to check my calendar." This is probably the wrong thing to say, but said it was, mainly because I was focusing on my use of tone, rather than the actual words I used.

Surprising me, as I thought she would attack my failure to 'allow adequate time' as she had done every time with Jim, Rachel moves onto the next point. After ten more minutes of clubbing poor Jim, her attention is directed back towards me.

I don't remember what she said; I was too amazed by her tone, relaxed and almost jovial, in stark contrast to her last sentence to Jim.

From this simple beginning, I've used these same techniques to assist others to work together in a team. I've also used this technique to teach others to begin to enjoy their work for the first time in years. I've taught this to customer service professionals having problems dealing with difficult people with outstanding success. Where could you use this technique?

Till next time, enjoy.
-- Michael.


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