"I mean, (name), we've been working together for how long now? Three months, four? And I STILL have no idea what you care about."
I am on a video chat with a client in New York. He is wearing a tie, sitting on the balcony of a fancy Manhattan hotel, taking a break from a conference to conduct our 9am session.
He laughs and looks up at the sky.
"And just like that," he says ruefully, "this has somehow become like every relationship I've ever been in."
(Now, we both know I am not here to coach him on his romantic relationships. The reason I'm here -- the reason he's paying me -- is to coach him on his acquisition story: the one that will help him sell his business, to the right people, at the right price point. But I seize on this admission, because it is exactly relevant to what we need to get him to see.)
"So what happens," I press, "when we keep getting the same feedback, over and over again? When you find yourself cycling through relationships with different women, and sooner or later they all say the same thing about why it's not working?"
He is looking off to the side, showing off his strong jawline. He's handsome, successful, too cool for school. He hates talking about himself, because there is so much about his story that could be perceived as bragging.
But I also know the things he tends not to share: That he grew up without a Dad. That his mom was prepetually scared that something bad would happen to him. That school made him feel dumb.
Problem is, he doesn't let any of this vulnerability show, in any story he tells, ever.
"It's tempting," I say, more gently, "to tell ourselves that everyone else has the problem. That you just keep picking needy people, or whatever. But what do all these people have in common? What's the common denominator?"
He sighs. "Me."
"When life keeps giving us the same results -- how many times does it have to happen, before we can agree that it's a pattern?"
He nods slowly, hands running absently through curly brown hair.
"Whenever we recognize a pattern," I say finally, "it's a sign that we have something to learn."
"I need to practice being vulnerable," he says finally.
I am quiet. This is something we've discussed before, but never with this gravity.