What’s Inside Your Pain Letter?

If you haven’t heard about them, pain letters are a brilliant way to reach inside an organization and show key decision makers that you understand their pains (the real problems they’re facing) and have the experience and skill set to help solve them.

Although it can be challenging as an outsider to identify the real problems facing an organization, it’s often just as difficult to articulate your own real pains as an insider. Trouble is, it’s easy to waste a lot of time, energy and money when you’re not sure what your real problems are.

pain perspective

So here’s what to do: Use the questions below as a guide, then quickly write yourself a bulleted pain letter describing your pains. You’ll gain tremendous clarity on the real problems you’re facing – and you’ll be better equipped to see your pain from the perspective of an outsider.

  1. Symptom or Cause? When you’re running from one thing to the next, it’s difficult to quickly diagnose whether your pain is a symptom or a cause. So ask yourself this question: If I take away this pain, will the problem still remain? If the answer is yes, then you’re dealing with a symptom – and you need to dig deeper to find the true source of your pain. On the other hand, if your solution eliminates the source of your pain and solves a few other pains as well, then you’re most likely dealing with a cause. Focus your attention on causal pains and you’ll eliminate many of the symptoms as well.
  2. Dull or Sharp? As you get older, you accumulate enough aches and pains that you tend to selectively ignore the dull aches and pay more attention to the sharp pains that signal a serious problem. But dull aches, like sore gums, can suddenly turn into sharp pains if ignored too long. And once something becomes a sharp pain, it’s the only thing you’re able to deal with. So quickly list your top 3 – 5 dull aches – the ones you plan to deal with “when you have time” – and decide right now what you’re going to do about them, and when.
  3. Intermittent or Consistent? Since the significance of a pain isn’t always equal to how often it occurs, it’s a mistake to only pay attention to consistent pains. While you might feel relieved that a particular pain isn’t bothering you this week (or month), it may simply be festering below the surface into a problem that’s guaranteed to get – and keep – your attention. So ask yourself this question: Which of my pains are intermittent? When do they occur and under what conditions? Answering these questions will go a long way towards putting your finger on their root causes, so that you can prepare a solution before the pain comes back.

Go ahead and set aside 10 – 15 minutes today to briefly answer the questions above, then quickly write yourself a bulleted pain letter. It may be just the medicine you need.


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Photo by Dietmar Becker.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.CoachingSitesThatWork.com Kenn, Coaching Site Specialist

    Hi Jonathan. My first visit to your site, but love your voice, questions, and style. Good to connect with you.

    The three questions above are very clever. Getting one to speak up about stuff without the typical “What’s your biggest pain right now?” kinds of questions.

    • JonathanCA

      Thanks Kenn!