Have you heard the saying, ‘if you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them’?
Whether you work in a firm or inhouse, self-doubt can be a serious barrier to building effective client relationships. But there’s a silver lining. It is possible to remove these psychological limitations and replace them with beliefs that empower you to foster stronger working relationships.
What are self-limiting beliefs?
As humans, we’re great at noticing and recognising patterns around us and finding meaning in them. It’s a skill that has been highly beneficial to us as a species. In hunter-gather days, it was vital for avoiding predators, finding reliable food sources and learning who we could trust.
It’s also allowed us to go from spear-throwing, woolly mammoth hunters – to the music-creating, artmaking, technology-loving humans that we are today.
But, there’s a downside to this uncanny ability: we start to look at unrelated incidences and build perceptions about ourselves that limit what we’re capable of.
We form these views in a number of ways – from things our parents or friends have said to us, to successes and failures at work.
Common self-limiting beliefs for lawyers
Managing Director of Barolsky Advisors and Teaching Fellow, Joel Barolsky, says the self-limiting beliefs most common in lawyers include:
- ‘I’m not good at marketing’
- ‘I have no time’
- ‘I don’t have that skillset’
- ‘I don’t have the networks’
- ‘I’m not a people-person’
A reinforcing cycle
Joel says, ‘Many lawyers believe they aren’t good networkers, or good with people… and once they form this belief, they tend to look for more and more instances to reinforce that idea.’
‘The thing about self-limiting beliefs is that they become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you’ve told yourself “I’m a bad networker”, you’re going to shy away from these situations as you think you don’t have the skills to cope in them. It takes a lot of courage to get over this kind of self-limiting belief.’
Self-limiting beliefs and client relationships
Joel says, ‘Lawyers are very successful people – they have their technical law expertise down pat. But often selling themselves and marketing to clients can make them feel very uncomfortable.’
‘Often they will put a whole lot of little barriers in front of themselves to avoid being in a position where they have to take a risk. It’s human nature to not want to fail. Failing is hard.’
How to remove these unhelpful barriers
The good news is, once we recognise the beliefs that are holding us back, it’s possible to change our mindset.
‘I help lawyers reframe their ideas about marketing and client relationships. I ask them, “can you go out and have a conversation with clients to understand what they need?” They usually respond with a resounding “yes”.’
‘From here it becomes a process of teaching them how to build trust with clients, how to help instead of sell – and how to market themselves.’
‘I give them strategies to help them build confidence and remove the self-limiting beliefs they’ve been harbouring.’
‘So, although I do teach technical skills, the biggest takeaway for students is how to shift their mindset. It’s getting rid of this notion that, just because you haven’t done something before, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.’
Want to rid your doubts and change your mindset?
A six-week course from The College of Law, Building trusted client relationships: Strategy and practice design will help you understand your self-limiting beliefs and how to move past them. It will equip you with the tools, framework and mindset to become an expert marketer and trusted client advisor.
This subject is part of the College’s newly formed Master of Legal Business – an innovative postgraduate course to help make leaders future ready. If you're interested in improving your client relationships, enquire today.