Having an incredible experience with a client, and helping them get equally incredible results, is such a high. It’s one of the best parts of the job, isn’t it? You can clearly see the impact you’re having in their life, and the flow on impact they’re having in the lives of others. I mean really: it’s amazing stuff.
However, on the flip side of the coin…
If you’re working with even one client who starts to stir up drama, client work can turn from awesome into absolutely exhausting.
Client drama can make you question yourself and kick your self-doubt into overdrive. It can suck out all your motivation, make you question your skills and training, and even make it hard to remember why you love what you do. (Yes, sadly I’m speaking from experience.)
What kind of client drama am I talking about specifically?
Client drama like when your client:
- Skips a commitment
- Dishes out endless excuses
- Blames you for their frustration that they haven’t got their results sooner, that they should be further along than they are now
- Cries all the time
- Gets angry if you point something out about themselves that’s hard to hear
- Constantly demands urgent attention and more.
The good news about drama? It’s a sign your client is growing and on the verge of transformation. And if you train your eye, you can see it coming — and be ready to handle it — before it happens.
Client drama is something I’ve definitely come across in my career — and it’s the reason I’ve got a couple of systems/policies in place, and tips to offer, on tackling this kind of fun-sucking challenge.
Today I’m sharing strategies I use in my own business, that allow me to make sure the client is still getting what they need, while also protecting my boundaries, energy and integrity.
Let’s jump in together, shall we, lovely?
Tip #1: Remind yourself: It’s not about you. Your client is likely acting out because of fear.
I always remind myself that there is space between myself, my client, and the drama that’s happening.
If you’ve ever had a client who is lashing out at you on any matter, it’s likely that fear is underpinning their anger, upset, or frustration. It doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but keep in mind that increasing discomfort is usually the thing that comes just before transformation for our clients.
If you’re working with clients to help them create some kind of transformation, there’s going to be a time when things feel really icky, awkward, out of their control, out of their comfort zone for them, and they’re going to be scared. When you’re IN IT, it’s hard to see this experience as part of the process, and so your client’s defensive mechanism may be to externalise it and blame. It’s often only in retrospect that we can see that discomfort, pain, and growing frustration are usually the things that trigger our ultimate transformation.
That’s why, if you’re a coach or working with 1-on-1 clients in some other capacity, it’s important to hold the space and your boundaries, and realise that this is very much part of the process for our client. We must honour that, not minimise it. This is tricky, but also part of letting your client have their full experience and their full journey.
Tip #2: Have preemptively set expectations.
Explaining any program policies, expectations about access to you, your work hours/availability, and progress milestones etc. up front and getting your client’s agreement – preferably with their autograph on it! – can help protect you both from potential drama down the track.
Two resources that I love to use are a really clear Program Agreement that I ask people to sign, and something I call a “Commitment Certificate”, which is basically a plain English list of statements describing the expectations and committed behaviours that I ask clients to commit to when they’re working with me.
These aren’t just directives (like times I’m available via phone and email) – but stuff like, “If I’m confused or stressed, I will take 10 deep breaths”, or “I will take personal responsibility”, or “I will be vulnerable.”
I keep all the legal stuff in my Program Agreement, but the “Commitment Certificate” is plain English: “If the shit goes down, here are the commitments that you’ve made to yourself about your own behaviour and mindset around that.”
Tip #3: Hold your boundaries no matter what.
Those include boundaries around your work hours, your turnaround times, acceptable modes for contacting you, etc.
If I’m your client and we have an agreement that we’ll be in contact via email, then it’s not okay for me to start calling you or sending you text messages. I repeat: it’s not ok. Even if you love working with me right now. Standing your ground around your boundaries is a great way to protect yourself from taking on potential client drama down the track.
Tip #4: Cut the cord.
This is a visualisation technique that I like to do post-session when I feel like I’ve had a really full-on session with someone – especially when I empathised deeply with them, or my client is going through something as part of the transformation I’m taking them through.
If I continue to experience energy around that for hours after the session, I like to literally visualise that there is a golden thread between me and my client. I visualise myself cutting the cord in a really respectful, gracious way. I know it sounds a little woo, but give it a go! It’s a really helpful way to release the connection and emotion around a challenging client session, by figuratively removing yourself from the situation.
Tip #5: Shield your heart.
If you are an intuitive, or an empath, or a healer of some kind, this tip can be particularly powerful for you.
If you’re diving into some tough topics, or going deep with a client, or you know that there’s something heavy you’ll need to help your client navigate, during the client session you can literally put your hand over your heart to protect it. Another option is to wear a large necklace over your heart, so you can actually shield yourself from any heaviness or potential drama.
This reminds your body and mind that you are safe from this client’s emotional experience, and while you should absolutely be there to support them, you don’t have to be internalising and taking on what they’re going through.
Tip #6: Set up a “client meetings only” area of your office.
Another great way to protect yourself from potential client drama or heaviness after a client session is to designate a special area of your office for client calls only, so you can literally leave the physical area after you hop off a call.
Having this habit of restricting yourself to certain locations for certain processes can be a cool way to create boundaries, and batch your work. Think about it: If you have a tough discussion with a client, and then spend the next 6 hours sitting at your desk working in the same place…chances are, you’ll be thinking of your client the whole time!
So carve out a corner of your office, or a spot in your kitchen or at a whole other desk, for client calls only, so you can remove yourself from the energy of that space when you need to.
Tip #7: Create something that I call “Consulting Records” — post-client sessions to document your observations and recommendations.
This is something that I like to do whether or not I share it with my client, or whether or not it’s a service I offer them. It can be a really great thing to have for your own records, particularly when it’s dated for reference. I got into the habit of creating Consulting Records when I was, you guessed it, working with a management consulting firm back in the day.
My Consulting Records help me capture and track whatever key points/recommendations I covered or outcomes of a particular session had with a client. As well as having a handy way of documenting my advice, the act of reviewing and writing everything down can be very therapeutic.
For example, the act of writing your Consulting Record, and closing that document and moving onto your next task when you’re finished can be very symbolic. This process can create a greater sense of space between you and your client, and help you dodge client drama.
Tip #8: Remember: The timing of someone’s results is not up to you.
The truth is, in fact, it’s never up to us.
I think that this idea, especially when you’re a service provider, coach, or creative, is ultimately one of the most frustrating truths to swallow: You can’t do it for them.
If you’re a health coach, you can’t monitor everything that your client eats, or you can’t monitor their morning routine, for example. You can’t be there with your client moment to moment, doing that every single day.
When it comes to the nature and timing of our client’s results, there are a bunch of different variables we have no control over. For example, their motivation, their background, the resources available to them, their passion, the field they’re in, their ideal clients, their commitment, their strengths and weaknesses, the amount of time they are able to dedicate, their family environment, the other things that are going on in their life. We’re just a small part of it all!
Remembering that you are not in control of the timing of your client’s results is important because it empowers you and your clients in an incredible way. It keeps your expertise and the way that you provide services separate from the results that someone has, which can allow you the freedom to do your very best work for them. At the same time, when you make that really clear to your clients, it can be empowering for them as well — because they become the master of their fate. And personal responsibility and committed daily action is truly game-changing.
That’s all for the tips, but I’m wondering: When was the last time you ran into client drama?
I hope you found this post useful! These are the strategies that insure me against client drama. I’d love to know, what’s your favourite thing to do to avoid client drama?
Drop your wisdom in the comments below, you brilliant woman! I’d absolutely love to hear about it so we can all learn together.
As always, thanks for reading – I’m so happy you’re here! I’d love you to please share this post with a girlfriend who might find it useful. It could totally make her day! Thank you 🙂