You would have to be living under a rock to not know that life is hard and heavy right now for many people. It is really important to be a positive or neutral place for your clients. Many clients may be going through some really hard life situations, and they simply hide behind a smile. The last thing our clients need is for us to unload on them and bother them with our personal troubles. The quote from Pluto is a great reminder:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even if they aren’t in a hard season in life there is a lot going on in the times we are currently living in.
Whether your clients share what is happening in their life or not being with you can be a good place and time for the client to escape their life for just a short time. This can also be helpful for you to not have to hear and dwell on all the negative day in and day out with your clients. Negativity and fear can feed off each other and spread so quickly.
So, what can you do?
One thing is to read the room.
When your client comes into your workspace read their body language. Does it seem like they want to talk? If not, it is really ok to be silent as much as possible. Certainly, if you need to consult or talk through something with your client it’s not ok to skip that part of doing your job. But not talking just to fill the silence is ok.
Many professionals have implemented options to even let the client know there is space for that. One options I have seen being implemented is allowing the client to request a silent appointment.
This is a great idea! However, maybe they booked the appointment when life wasn’t so crazy and when they show up for the appointment their day has changed. At that time, maybe they do or don’t want to talk. In this case, I have seen professionals have a little rotating sign on their station in their workspace. It is a spinning sign with one side saying “I would prefer a silent appointment today” and the other says ” I would prefer to talk during my appointment today”. The verbiage can vary a little, of course. This can be a helpful tool for your clients to get what they need in this overstimulating world.
It is important to continue to read your client. Maybe they were chatting to begin with but seems to have quieted down. Likely they just wanted to talk a little and have settled in just wanting to enjoy their escape from their busy life.
If you are in your own area with your client, open to it and have the access to your music in your space, offering their choice selection of the type of music can be a treat for them depending on what they would want to listen to.
Starting your appointment with a positive note can change their body language and mental state. If this is a client you have known awhile or even just getting to know, asking your client to share something good and new in their life can get them talking about positive things happening in their life.
Focusing on something positive can also be a great way to change the subject when a client heads down a negative or controversial path you are not comfortable with. Always protect your comfort and boundaries as well. It is a beautiful and honorable thing that our clients feel comfortable and trust us as someone to talk to. However, that does not mean that people can and should unload on you or treat you badly. While it is a hard thing to displease your client, some redirections for those tough situations can be helpful. For example, you can kindly recommend they see a counselor for help or if it is something intrusive in your life gently reminding them it is personal, and you don’t want to discuss that with them. It is ok to protect yourself and can be manageable to send the message nicely, but also firm.
Working with clients of all kinds is part of our job. Giving yourself these tools and practicing these tips can help give both you and your clients a good experience.