How to deal with difficult clients using Active Listening

Actively listening and responding appropriately are two of the key skills that a counselor or therapist should apply during counseling sessions with a client. Being able to communicate effectively is an important requirement, in any type of counseling job. Understanding the importance of these skills and being able to apply them accordingly is a valuable asset in consulting.

We often joke that as public relations professionals, we are sometimes more therapists than consultants, helping clients navigate everything that comes up when we expose ourselves for our jobs and beyond our commitments. In the fervor to seize opportunities, secure results and, by extension, our contract, we can often lose a key element of the customer relationship; mainly that our role as an agency or consultant is not simply transactional, but relational.

Let’s start by trying to understand the customer’s motives. Surely he has his own way to go, his own fears and pressures, beliefs and factors and even provocations (most of which have absolutely nothing to do with us!) These conditions are going to directly influence the quality of the relationship and, at the same time, in the level of confidence that it will give to our suggestions and opinions.

Let’s think that that client has had a negative experience with a public relations firm in the past, for example, and because of this, they could use a communication style that feels aggressive and replicative (because they are trying to make sure that you know what is doing). You may be putting every last detail in your work, because you were disappointed by the lack of attention in your previous experience, or maybe you are a person who is not confident in his job and sees the agency as a rival rather than an ally.

None of these circumstances are attributable to you, but they deserve your full knowledge and attention regarding your communication style, as well as your interpretation of what is happening. That is why it is key that as the quality of relationships with a client deepens, their reputation, credibility and experience are strengthened.

I have always emphasized that the difference between a good agency and another agency, lies in always being ahead of the client’s wishes. Move from reactive to proactive position. And in this sense, it is essential to apply active listening, which essentially tries to learn to really listen, openly and attentively, not only to respond or simply offer a solution without a true understanding of what is said and what is wanted. say with what is said.

Listening makes the person speaking feel important, appreciated, and respected. When we give someone our undivided attention, the speaker responds positively by interacting on a deeper level, perhaps revealing personal information or becoming more relaxed. When an advisor pays close attention to what the client is saying, they are encouraging them to keep talking, as well as ensuring that communication remains open and positive.

If we consider the previous examples, when we understand our motivations and concerns, we can face difficult clients differently. We will be able to free ourselves from the urge to take it personally. If we put aside our own judgments and reactions and instead open our minds, we can understand what is behind the frustration.

From that position, we can answer questions and requests without pressure and disappointment, and open the possibility to seek creative alternatives, have an honest conversation that leads to solutions without feeling the need to apologize, assume unnecessary responsibilities or weaken the relationship. Through active and empathetic listening, we can achieve the ideal result: a strengthened bond and a greater sense of trust.

In summary:

• Listening builds trust. Good consultants must be good listeners, show concern for the client’s needs and help them find solutions and solutions to their needs.
• Listening reduces resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of clients and contributes to a good outcome in the discussion.
• Listening builds self-esteem. It is flattering for a customer to know that they were listened to carefully and that what they wanted was achieved.

So the next time you feel cornered by the way a customer pressures you with a monstrous watchlist, brings you in as your shadow, or holds a hostile position, count to ten, activate your Active Listening or Empathic Listening capabilities. and try to use your interpersonal skills to change the outcome.

When we introduce ourselves to conversations with a different attitude, we change the very nature of the exchange and we can create a different experience that will make both parties feel better.