How do you feel when you feel you’ve been disrespected by a client, a potential client or a colleague?
How do you tend to handle it?
It unfortunately happens a lot in business and when YOU are your own business it can feel very personal and it can also escalate quickly.
This past week I’ve been helping a fair few people with how to handle conversations with people who have disrespected them in some way.
With permission I’m going to talk about a specific example from one of my glorious clients from The Mentorship.
So, as part of The Mentorship we have both a telegram group (for quick answers to things and for pep talks and support) and we have a private facebook group. In the Facebook group people can post sales pages, copy, ideas, anything where they want direct feedback from us and the group.
I’ll tell you the story and you can try to apply it to your own business or situation.
This glorious client posted a message she wanted to send to a client who she felt had been disrespectful, to sense check it before it went out.
She’s an INCREDIBLE wedding photographer and a client had booked a shoot back in April and had held the June slot for them and had been chasing payment.
The father of the groom was managing the booking and was, shall we say, not the most helpful perhaps.
She had payment terms of a deposit, followed by the rest of the payment due 4 weeks before the big day.
It gets to 5 weeks before and still no payment.
So she sends the full invoice and he says he doesn’t want to pay all of it in one go. She goes back and is totally reasonable, explains the terms (very standard for the industry) and is accommodating and says she’s happy to split it in two if need be but those are the standard terms.
He doesn’t come back to her.
So at this point she’s pretty annoyed and feeling disrespected and doesn’t really want to do the job anymore. The spidey senses were tingling.
Nobody wants to work with a client where there’s any kind of resentment, it feels like trying to push water uphill.
So she posts her message that she wants to send to essentially say she’s going to have to release the date.
This is where it’s REALLY easy to let emotion spill into the message and inevitably the annoyance can come into the tone of the message too.
It’s unbelievable how much undertone can come across simply through your language.
Sometimes all this does is serve to escalate the issue. Or give people fodder for call out posts and it’s just not worth it either way.
There’s a way of communicating in these moments where you get to release the emotion and not let it fester and linger. To take back the power in the situation and be really clear as to why you aren’t accepting the behaviour so it can’t be argued with.
I’m a big believer in if you have to have a difficult conversation it’s far better to try and do it over the phone or in person if possible because it’s much easier to see the real intention behind the words. However, sometimes an email or message is just what’s required.
So we took her original message and just tweaked it slightly in terms of the language where it went from being able to read the anger and emotion to something that was professional, clear, direct and there was no room to argue. The emotion was taken out and she could firmly and politely stand in her boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable for her as a professional. The best bit, it’s far easier to move on.
So I have a few tips that can make this a little easier for you and hopefully give you a better outcome AND leaving you without the lingering feelings of anger and resentment because I see too many small business owners get taken advantage of by customers and clients.
You can’t stop that happening unfortunately BUT you can choose a different action.
This one is especially hard for my Enneagram 2s and people pleasers. So I hope this is helpful for you because it will come up at some point in your business.
It might be someone not respecting your payment terms, or working hours, or not showing up to calls and we need to put some boundaries in place.
Firstly, It’s not always best to bend over backwards to please someone else if they aren’t respecting you or your time. This is where we end up with nightmare clients. Clients who demand the moon on a stick. If they’re prepared to do it once, they WILL do it again.
One of the first things I do when I work with anyone is make it super clear where the boundaries are in terms of when I work and answer their messages and when I don’t. I make sure everyone’s on the same page. It makes it far easier to reiterate the boundaries if they do push it.
Try to realise it’s not personal. It may feel like it but 9/10 times it’s absolutely not.
Try to see the person behaving not so well as a walking ego. This is where my empathy over anger practice comes in. Being able to look at the person and their behaviour and think I wonder what happened to them for them to think this behaviour is ok, that this is how you treat people. Bad behaviour towards others is usually a protection mechanism or something they have learned from someone close to them. Either way I can find compassion for that.
Same thing for sense checking your own message. If you read it back, what do you see in the sub text?
Don’t get to the point where you’re willing to trample on your own boundaries because there’s cash on the table. This is a big one. My lovely client could have bent over backwards and ended up doing the work and potentially not being paid. There’s all manner of things that can happen that doesn’t leave you in a great position. Ask yourself how will it feel to work with this person and be honest with yourself. Is it just about the money?
Ask yourself, what are the stories underneath your thoughts and feelings right now? So helpful to do. It might look like. I’m feeling angry and frustrated. It’s reminded me of a time when I was at school where I felt the same. It’s triggered a parental wound. Ask yourself if you’re really reacting to what’s in front of you right now or something from your past.
Remember you do not want nightmare clients. You will be able to spot them in the way THEY communicate with YOU. How do you feel in your body when they message or speak to you. Are your spidey senses tingling?
Biggest tip is to take a minute to walk away and come back to it. When the sympathetic response is activated it shuts off your prefrontal cortex in your brain, which you need for conscious rational thought, decision making, and choice! Go regulate yourself by taking a walk, belt out a power ballad, breathing techniques, whatever is your favourite way to regulate your emotions.
Then take the emotion out of the message. Make sure it’s coming from a balanced and professional, boundaried place. Emotion usually means escalation. I mean…can you imagine a world full of emotionally regulated people? How different situations would turn out? the…dream!
Remember you’re a business and just because it might just be you in your business doesn’t mean you deserve any less respect. You get to fire your clients and you get to say no to their business. Be professional and stand in your boundaries.
Fran Excell, Success Mindset Mentor at www.franexcell.com – Helping Business Owners & Executives Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage so they can get back their time, get off the emotional rollercoaster and feel more in control.
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