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Dealing with Difficult Clients: Keeping Your Cool


pebbles-difficultPebbles Jacobo, All Things VA bloggerHave you experienced one yet? Odds are that if you are in business long enough, you will. And it most likely will not be a pretty sight. Difficult people have a way of pulling our strings and pushing our buttons.

Oftentimes things start off quite smoothly; other times there are immediate obvious signals that your train in barreling its way straight off a washed-out bridge. Whatever the case may be, here are a few things to keep in mind when your next train wreck is in progress or about to happen.

Point of View:  Just as there are two sides to a coin, there also are two sides to a story/situation – two very separate points of view. There is your side and there is the side of your client. Remember, everyone brings something different to any given situation as no two people, even twins, have the exact same experiences and the exact same responses from which to draw upon. These references guide a person’s responses and reactions to every situation.

point of view can also be called a point of reference. What is your point of reference to a client with a complaint? If you have dealt with this before, odds are, whether conscious or subconscious, you are referencing from previous experiences with client difficulties. What about your client? Try to put yourself in their shoes and see the situation from their point of view. There are two sides to every story…

Facts and Emotions:  When I was growing up I loved to watch the old black and white movies and one of my favorites was Dragnet. One of the most iconic lines is: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” When detectives are investigating a mystery, they seek out cold, hard facts. When a client makes an accusation of any kind, whether true or false, we get frustrated and defensive, but what does this solve? At the end of the day business is business and you need to keep it that way. This means sticking to the facts and putting your emotions (most often a bruised ego or damaged pride) off to the side. Though it will be difficult, do the same with what your client has to say. Seek the facts in your client’s claims. Overlook the painful and possibly hurtful words. Get down to the facts of the situation.

What’s it Really Worth?  Sometimes we get so caught up in a situation we take our eye off the ball and lose focus on the real issue. It’s difficult not to react to a client’s harsh or critical message, but before firing off your defensive response, I encourage you to take a few moments (or several, depending on how upset you are) and walk away. Yep. Just take a walk, cool down and really think about what is at stake. If it is just about your pride, well, suck it up and endeavor to learn from the situation. Consider the possible consequences of your actions before you reply. Are you really able to possibly lose that main client over ____? For all you know they might have just heard some difficult news before firing off their jab at you. This in no way excuses their actions, but does shed light on their behavior. Before you reply, think through what it might cost you, either today or tomorrow or even a year down the line.

I hope I have given you a few things to think about when faced with your next difficult client. Remember, the world does not revolve around you, so consider both sides of the situation, separate out the emotions from the cold, hard facts and consider what is at stake and what you are willing to pay or lose.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pebbles Jacobo is the owner of A&P Virtual Enterprises,, which she, with the guidance of her husband, started when she began  working from home as a VA (Virtual Assistant) several years ago. As Content Manager of the leading Christian work-at-home site online,, Pebbles found herself thoroughly intrigued and fascinated with the world of social media. Her love of social media has grown over the years.  She now offers Social Media Marketing, as well as Blog Management, Editing, E-Book Formatting and Conversion, VA Training, and a host of other services to her clients, which include speakers, authors and entrepreneurs alike.  Connect with Pebbles on Facebook.


  1. Amy Scott says:

    These are great tips! I’m lucky; I haven’t had very many difficult clients over the years, but when it does happen, following guidelines like the ones you outline here goes a long way. In fact, they’re useful for most kinds of conflicts, not just with clients!

    One thing I often do is write an email (being sure NOT to put any name/address on the “to” line!) and get everything off my chest, but I don’t send it (probably best to just delete it right away). Then I take a break, regroup, and write the email I *should* write.

  2. Pebbles Jacobo says:

    Amy, I love the email idea and, you’re right, these guidelines are versatile for more than difficult clients.

  3. I find the more I focus on my ideal client, the less I have to deal with difficult ones! It seems that then I attract the people I just LOVE to work with. I will keep this in mind though, the next time one slips through the cracks!

  4. Pebbles Jacobo says:

    Daphne, I have found that to be true for me, as well. I filter new clients more thoroughly now and my business has prospered because of it. 🙂 It is sad that we have to be selective, but it is a necessary tool for success.


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