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.
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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.