We’ve all had our share of difficult clients. When you review the journey you traveled to reach that difficult stage, what do you uncover? For example, we at DuKate discovered that we were weenies. Having to confront bad behavior and abusive manipulation can be tough, to put it mildly. We all suffer from the “I want to be liked” syndrome.

But here’s the ironic truth: The client will never respect someone he or she can run all over.

I am writing this article to myself. I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and say the hard things that need to be said. I overheard my boss dealing with a difficult client yesterday. The client wanted to know why we were passing on her quote. My boss did a great job with soft, honest answers. Sometimes it is best to pass on a job. But explaining the “why” behind that action is always going to be as uncomfortable as doing ballet across shattered glass.

I once heard a business coach say, “If you think it, you need to say it.” I agree with the basic premise that if a client’s behavior is making you squirm, it does no one any good to pretend it’s not happening. But how we present those tough points makes all the difference.

So, how do you tell someone that they are racking up additional overhead with their endless phone calls demanding proof of their charges?

Good question. You just have to say, “I feel you don’t trust our company. Maybe it’s something we’ve done. We need to talk about it. On your last project you didn’t trust our billing and all the additional time it took to prove its legitimacy caused unnecessary overhead.”

As you know, you can run into this kind of questioning on additional work for a large addition as well as on small time and material projects.

As Susan Scott says in her book Fierce Conversations, “Most people want to hear the truth even if it’s unpalatable.”

Yes, they do. But be sure to season with honey, not vinegar. Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Fine Remodeling, in Franklin, Ind.

Related articles:

Conversation Peace: Difficult talks can become easier if approached the right way

Nobody’s Perfect: How-to apologize to a client

Just Say No: Recognizing when a prospect isn’t a good fit