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Verbal Dexterity: Talking the Talk » Blog Archive » If You Weren’t Paying Us I’d Kill You: How To Deal With The Pain-In-The-Ass Client

If You Weren’t Paying Us I’d Kill You: How To Deal With The Pain-In-The-Ass Client

Yes, what the say about assholes is true: Everybody has one.

Unfortunately, all of us, at one point in our career, have had the unique thrill and challenge of dealing with an arrogant, ungrateful, egotistical, unappreciative, pig-headed, demanding, naive, offensive, short-sighted, unrealistic, boorish, schizophrenic, lost in the weeds, unreliable, two-faced, unpredictable, unlikable, incomprehensible, pain-in-the-ass (”P-I-T-A”) client.

How do you deal with a P-I-T-A?

I know. Your first instinct is to yell, bang your head and throw something. But that’s not realistic.

Neither is homicide.

So what can you do?

Here are some tips:

  • Immediately do the math–do you need them more than they need you? If so, you have to find a way to keep them as a client. If not, Au Revoir/Sayonara/See Ya Later!
  • Exert the effort to find something (anything) that is redeeming or tolerable about them and make that a diversionary subject of conversation when you interact
  • Consistently send them confirming notes/memos so that you have some type of record when they pull a “Crazy Ivan” (Russian submarine captain’s unexpected u-turn) on you
  • Attempt to meet/speak with them with your colleagues present. It’s always good to have a witness to the madness
  • Always be more prepared for a meeting than they are. The more you can eliminate potential areas for criticism, the better
  • Always have a second approach (in your back pocket), ready to be shared
  • No matter how tempting, don’t become a “Yes Man.” In the long run, such butt-kissers are never valued or respected
  • Think of ways to appeal to their vanity
  • Try to figure out a way to make them look good
  • In the face of a success, always refer to your relationship as a “partnership” and a “team effort”
  • Take their venting and disgust with a smile (think “The Devil Wears Prada”)
  • Never yell, scream or accuse back. You will never win if they are paying you
  • Today”s Tip: You can’t turn an Asshole into a Princess…but you can avoid making things worse. Understand your P-I-T-A’s personality, hobbies, preferences and never let them see you sweat. In the long run, preparation, stoicism and successful execution can tame and impress that difficult client.

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