One of the richest aspects of accounting for me is that being someone’s accountant brings me into a very intimate connection with that person. In British (and Australian) culture, talking about personal finances is often uncomfortable – it’s not a topic of polite conversation. Money is something we usually only discuss in detail with one’s spouse, or perhaps one’s parents or adult children.
In this way an accountant is in a similar position to a doctor: the professional examination involves revealing “warts and all”. Obviously the accountant can’t do their job without all the relevant information – but I always feel a little frisson at the moment when the client starts to tell me the detail. It is, in a psychic sense, very much a moment of “undressing”.
I deeply value my clients revealing themselves to me in this way. I feel it is a very vivid demonstration of trust. Even though I know most people routinely interact with professionals of many sorts who require us to share our “secrets”, each time a client does this with me I feel it is special, and deserves acknowledgement, and respect. It really is a relationship of vulnerability: my client is vulnerable to the extent to which I caringly respect what they have confided.
But in my approach to my work this intimacy and vulnerability is not just one way. All my clients are people for whom their work or their business is a creative expression of their soul – just as my own business is for me. Thus although there is a client-practitioner relationship, there is also another level of deep mutuality: we share values around authenticity and creativity, and around the challenges involved in being true to ourselves and earning a living.
Sometimes this comes out in snippets of conversation where we discover a shared passion around some element of business operations. Sometimes it comes out in drawing on personal growth principles to help us address an issue in the business. Sometimes I need to tell them I am triggered by aspects of their profession or their business. Sometimes it will come out in what appears to be a rambling natter about something else – which then suddenly and unexpectedly crystallises for the client a vital aspect of their business focus.
I share with my clients a vigorous belief in disclosing all this personal stuff, in allowing the emotional and the seemingly-unrelated. Often the wisdom of our lives comes out to affirm the other, to support the other and to validate the path we are already on. Together we hold a trust that the connection between us is right, that it is powerful, and that our connection generates what is of mutual value to us no matter what it’s content looks like.
This is what Kimaya Kroller-Younger calls Radical Intimacy. The attempt to accept all of what is there in oneself enables us to be more deeply with ourselves. This in turn enables us to be deeply with others. Of course we get scared, of course the acceptance is never complete. But the edges where we stop are also moments to honour the courage it takes to go right up to the edge. And often that edge can shift simply when it is accepted – by ourselves or by another.
Having created an intimate openness, our work together can then proceed as a collaborative project. They need their tax done, or their admin dealt with, or to know how their profit is going – whatever it is. I ask if they want to get skilled up themselves, or whether they just want it taken care of. The project can be anything, and of any duration. Then we discuss what needs to be done to complete the project, what our skills and respective time constraints are, and then decide who does what and when.
The work proceeds well because we have created an intimate connection. We have each brought ourselves present – not necessarily in our entirety but very much authentically in the moment. Our beings resonate intimately with each other – and this enables a smooth working-together.
Truly – the pleasures of an intimate accountant.