8 Tips for Keeping Your Cool While Handling a Tough Client
It’s been a doozy of a week. A difficult client led to some tough conversations and patience-testing moments. Since we’ve all been in a situation like this (and if you haven’t yet, you will!), I thought I’d share some of the strategies that helped me keep my head on straight — and keep on smiling.
- Negotiate wisely. Enter every pricing conversation knowing what your payment “floor” is. If it makes sense to offer a “friends and family” discount, that’s fine. Just remember that working for rock-bottom rates is a sure-fire way to feel undervalued and, if things go haywire, resentful.
- Trust your intuition: If you’re sensing any red flags about a client or project, listen to your gut, even if it means saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the opportunity.
- Use a contract: Five words: Every. Client. Signs. A. Contract.
- Discuss problems IRL. When things started going off the rails, my client — let’s call him Bill — chewed me out in an email. I wrote back saying, “I don’t resolve misunderstandings in email.” Conflict resolution is always most effective when it’s done in person. If that’s impossible, schedule a video conference or just pick up the phone.
- Do your best. On the day of the workshop, I set aside my frustrations and led the best workshop I could. NEVER shortchange a client, even one who’s making you crazy.
- Stick to the high road. Despite losing time and income during a teeth-gnashing, brow-furrowing week, I treated Bill and his team with the utmost professionalism and respect.
- Own your mistakes. When all was said and done, Bill never admitted any responsibility for the messy situation, but I sure did. It was the right thing to do, and it also created space for my own reflection and learning — two things that will help me avoid an unpleasant situation in the future.
- I walked the talk. Ironically, the workshop I led was about brightening communication skills and using curiosity to help people connect with compassion and empathy. Keeping those big-picture goals in mind helped me navigate a tricky path.
Now that my crappy week is over, I’ve got one more thing to feel good about: I’ve stopped ruminating about all the things that went wrong. Instead, I’m filing this experience under “lessons learned” and moving on. And that feels really good.
Candra Canning is the founder of Live Bright Now. She’s been coaching corporate leaders + teams to brighten their performance for 20 years. Candra believes a bright company culture creates bright leaders + bright communities — even a brighter world.