Do you have difficult clients? How do you deal with difficult clients? I used to HATE when clients would sign up for coaching, and then never respond to my emails or check ins. I used to consider these unresponsive clients to be “difficult”
There might be something else that you consider “difficult” about clients.
What is it?
And I don’t know anybody who enjoys working with difficult clients.
So I am going to teach you the tricks that helped me stop stressing about difficult clients, and instead get them to the outcome they hired me for.
It will be helpful for you to have a client or situation in mind as we go through this video. So, I want you to take a second to close your eyes. I’m going to ask a few questions and with your eyes closed I want you to watch what comes up.
Imagine a time that you’ve felt absolutely #TRIGGERED by a client.
What did they say or do?
Or perhaps, what did they NOT do?
[Really, reach deep and think about it.]
How did you feel about it emotionally?
How did you react to what they said or did?
How did they respond to your reaction?
[Be sure to reflect on the answers to each question.]
Did you leave the interaction feeling like your needs were met?
Did you meet your clients needs?
[Considering all the questions above, take a few additional minutes to contemplate.]
If you can answer ‘yes’, to these last two questions then, I’m not sure why you’re watching this video! It sounds like you’re a ninja communicator. Kudos! Check out our post: How to Become a 6-Figure Coach
When Needs Aren’t Met
But, if you believe either your needs or your clients needs weren’t met after that triggering interaction, then this process I’m about to go through with you is critical to your success as a coach. This process will also save you from burnout, or creating a negative word of mouth situation!
How to Deal with Difficult Clients – Step 1: There Are No Difficult Clients
The first thing to understand about dealing with difficult clients is that there are no difficult clients.
You might be thinking, “But I deal with difficult people all the time! Certainly some people are just difficult….”
So let me explain why no one is difficult by nature, even though we might think so!
It’s All About Perception
And the reason is that you perceive people as difficult. There is nothing inherently difficult about a person. That is just your judgement.
When you believe a person is being difficult, that really means that you are in situation with that person which feels difficult for you to manage.
And, this should be a liberating realization. This is how you deal with difficult clients. Since it is really you who is experiencing the difficulty, and the other person isn’t difficult by nature — you have control in the situation! If you had to wait for someone else to change, or find some magic script that will turn a difficult person into an easy-to-work with person, you’d suffer a lifetime of difficult people. Luckily, the solution lies with you!
Instead you must own the way that YOU react to a situation with a client and stop focusing on how to deal with this difficult client. And to do that you must have a clear space to reflect on what it is about them you find difficult. Or, what it is about situations you find yourself in with them that you find difficult.
How to Deal with Difficult Clients – Step 2: The Projection Purge
But before we can have a clear mirror to hold up and reflect- we must purge all the crap flying around your head about the situation first. Otherwise, you’ll be reflecting in a dirty mirror.
This process is what I call a projection purge.
You might be wondering what a projection is. Put simply, it’s when I take how I feel outside, and apply to someone or something outside of myself.
And the perfect example is projecting the idea that someone is difficult.
As we established, nobody is inherently difficult.
I am the one experiencing difficulty and it’s associated emotions, so I apply the difficult label to someone outside of myself.
And this gives away all of my personal power.
So before we can reflect and see where the difficulty is within ourselves, it helps to purge the projections, and take back our personal power.
I do this myself, and with my coaches at Beyond Macros.
How To Deal With Difficult Clients: A Real Beyond Macros Case
For example, we had a client who was unresponsive to their coaches check in emails.
Every week my coach would send this client an email checking in with feedback, a few clarifying questions, and an action to take next week.
After 4 weeks like this, my coach finally hears back. But not with a check in.
The email response read:
“I’m not getting results, I don’t think your plan is working so I want to cancel my membership early.”
When I talked to my coach about it, I wanted them to reflect about how they could have served this client better.
How they could have approached things differently. And ultimately how they can save the relationship.
But I know from experience the coach is going to want to blame the client for their lack of results. A part of me would want to do the same, and early in my coaching career I would have written this client off as difficult!
So, I give my coaches the space to purge the blame projection. They can voice it, they can write it down. But neither me, nor the coach will assign any importance to the projection once it’s out.
It’s important that we don’t believe the story of the projection.
But it is 100% necessary to get that projection OUT. And then BURN IT.
One of the best ways I’ve learned how to purge projections is to write them on a piece of paper and burn it.
Once we get these projection stories out, we can reflect effectively.
For me, I find it difficult when clients are unresponsive to check ins. And my process of reflection when dealing with this situation goes like this:
How to deal with Difficult Clients – Step 3: Consider The Possibilities
First, I consider what might be going on in the client’s life that is causing them to act in a way that is difficult for me to deal with.
Notice how I am owning that I am now owning the difficulty.
In considering what might be going on in the client’s life, I develop more compassion and empathy rather than seeing them as the enemy.
Maybe their kid is sick. Maybe they’re going through a professional crisis, and nutrition isn’t their priority.
Both are understandable reasons why the client might be unresponsive.
How to deal with Difficult Clients – Step 3: Walk in Their Shoes
Next, I like to flip the script.
It REALLY helps to step out of your shoes, leave your brain behind, and step into your client’s shoes.
What might my client consider to be difficult about me, or the way I am communicating with them?
Have I been rambling in my check ins where brevity would do?
Do I have too many questions or calls to action in my check ins to the point where it’s overwhelming?
Is email really the best way to get in touch with the client, or is there a better medium?
Have I unnecessarily complicated the check in process?
Maybe I haven’t communicated the importance of checking in and the client feels its a lot of work for nothing.
These types of reflections have given me the insight to streamline my coaching process, increase client buy in and compliance.
But the process doesn’t end there!
Next, consider yourself- what are your needs in the situation?
In the example of a client who is unresponsive to check ins, my ultimate need is to get that client results. When they aren’t checking in, it triggers a fear in me that I won’t have the opportunity to guide the client to the goal they hired me for.
My difficulty is actually an inner issue with self worth. It might bring up emotions of fear, frustration, worry, tension, or even embarrassment.
And when I feel this way, my reaction is to project that they are making me feel this way by being difficult.
When I restore my personal power, and own those emotions, I recognize what I need in the moment on the path to getting the client results.
Consider Your Needs
Usually I just need to know what is going on with the client. What is it that you are looking for/needing from your clients?
Otherwise, it’s easy to make up stories in my head about how the client is doing this TO me. Or that I am a bad coach because I can’t keep lines of communication open.
But when I know I just need to know what’s going on with the client I can send a really simple email from the heart asking them directly what’s going on?
And usually this yields a response. And then I can get some feedback and adjust my process to suit their needs. Lines of communication can open back up, and I can get the client to their desired outcome.
But if I were to treat the client as if they were difficult.
If I were to unload my projections in their direction- communication is probably shut down FOR GOOD.
Nobody wants to feel difficult.
And if you put someone on the defensive by insinuating that they are being difficult- you’re most likely going to be met with resistance. You’ll lose the client, and generate bad word of mouth.
And I think it’s safe to assume NONE of these outcomes are desirable for you!
And even though this video is designed to help you deal with difficult client situations more gracefully, check out our free worksheet that I think will help you avoid coaching burnout and serve your clients even better.
The worksheet will help you identify the common threads between clients who drain your energy, clients who you JUMP out of bed to serve, and how to create a client filter so that every day you are stoked to be in service.
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