4 Steps to Managing Difficult People

(yep, even clients)

Have you ever had a difficult client? You know… someone who made an unreasonable demand or was snarky or upset. Did you get triggered and feel afterward like you didn’t handle it effectively? Or did you handle the situation the only way you could – “Buh-bye, drama!” – but it cost you a client and left you feeling… yucky?

I’ve been there.

And that’s why I developed my four-step process for dealing with unpleasant or unhappy clients. Not only will it keep you in your power so you act in a way that really aligns with your values, but it may also help you save a client relationship and look like a rockstar.

Ready for those four steps? Here we go…

STEP #1: Take a minute (or more)

I have a rule that when I’m triggered and upset, my hands come off the keyboard. I don’t touch my phone. Why? Because I know that if I just let loose I’m going to say something that I’ll regret later.

Take deep breaths. A lot of them. Put off your response until you’re not triggered and not upset.

If they’re on the phone with me, I have a script that I use. It goes something like this, “I hear you. I hear that there is a challenge. And I’d like to really give some thought to this. So I’m going to get back to you tomorrow/no later than Tuesday.”

I also have an email template on standby that I can just cut and paste in response to a provoking email. That way they’re not wondering if I got it, if I’m ghosting them, or what’s going on. They’ve gotten a response from me but the response has none of my feelings and no interaction about the problem. This way, I have time to work on my triggers and to get myself in a good, powerful space to respond so I don’t regret what I say later.

STEP #2: Do your own work

What is your work? Do you need to meditate? Do you need to tap? Do you need to find compassion? What do you need to do to get yourself to a place where open to hearing what they’re saying?

Now we all know that sometimes people we’re in relationship with in business and in life – clients, vendors, just to name a couple – sometimes go squirrelly, and get odd thoughts in their heads. It happens, right? But if we can come with compassion or light or understanding, it’s going to put us in a better spot. Whatever you do – meditate, pray, tap, whatever – it’s time to do that and see if you can have just a little bit of compassion for them even if you still think they’re totally wrong. (That happens.)

STEP #3: Get to the root of the issue

Figure out what the other person is really afraid of. Almost all upset communications come from some kind of fear (which is almost never what they shared with you and certainly not the way that they shared it).

If they’re in a coaching or service-based program with you, it could be the fear that they won’t get what they want or they’ll look stupid or something like that. As soon as you become aware of the fear then you can know that this isn’t about you. This is about them and their fear.

Now, going to them and saying, “Ok, I see that this is all about you and your fear” probably isn’t going to be very effective… Don’t do that. But once you discover their fear you have all kinds of power to help them find another way to interact with you.

STEP #4: Respond with compassion

Now that you’ve calmed your inner tiger, and found their true fear or concern, you can go back and talk to them. Now you can go back and say, “You know, I hear you and I understand that you really want to get this resolved” or “I understand that you really want to feel taken care of” or “I understand that there’s something that you really want and need.” Now you can set your boundaries and say what you’re going to do.

If you really are at fault then you get to say, “I’m very sorry, this is what happened, this is what we’re going to do to make it right.” That’s a way to win over a customer for life.

If it’s a misunderstanding that they have about your boundaries, your services, or how you’re interacting, then you can say, “You know, I know you really want to achieve (their result)” or “It’s my understanding that this is really important to you and I want to do everything in my power to help you achieve that. Here’s what I can do…” You don’t say ‘but’, you don’t say ‘however’, you just say “Here’s what I can do…”

With these 4 steps, I keep my boundaries and satisfy the occasional unhappy client. And you will, too.

Attracting your ideal clients to your business – people who are willing and eager to pay you well for your services – is easier when your brand is built correctly.

Want to learn more ways to dramatically upscale your brand?