By GGTW Co-founder Amanda Epp
I will never forget the day a client yelled at me. It was horrible enough as it was, but the experience was made even more mortifying because the co-founder of the company where I worked was participating in the meeting, too. I did my best to speak my peace and explain to the client what happened, but I quickly realized no amount of explanation would work to diffuse the situation. Our client felt her back was up against a corner and her job was on the line, so nothing I said mattered. Nothing I said could possibly matter.
After the humiliating tongue-lashing and with little to no conclusion for the problem, I sulked back to my desk, not sure what to do. No one had ever spoken to me that way at work, which was bad enough, but what did my boss think? I was almost on the edge of tears when (GGTW Co-founder) Tricia walked over to my desk. She had been on the call, too. She patted me on the back and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
Honestly, I don’t really remember what we talked about specifically, but after that walk, I knew the client’s behavior wasn’t my responsibility, and I should never take anything like that personally. The way people respond when they feel like they have lost control or their backs are against a wall can be crazy. And that isn’t my fault. But I could and did look to see where my actions may have provoked her disappointment.
I reviewed everything with our team. We had confidence that we had done nothing wrong, which helped bolster my spirits. Later that day, we crafted a response to the client (Tricia was also my “bitch-meter” for emailing back then), and I sent it off, letting go of the harsh feelings I felt.
That day was very memorable to me, and the entire experience served to teach me a few valuable lessons.
- You never know what someone is going through. I later found out that the woman who yelled at me had just started a new role at work and was also going through a divorce. I had no idea! It turned out that the attack wasn’t personal, even though it really felt that way at the time. She was just stressed and had a lot on her plate.
- When in doubt, walk it out. If you need to think, vent, cool off, or just need some rays, get out of your four walls and go for a walk. Just changing your physical environment for a few minutes can help break the cycle of self-defeat, and fresh air is always good for the body and soul.
- Use your support system. Feeling like you are the target of someone’s bad day or wrath can be devastating to your morale and self-confidence. Reach out to someone in your support system who can provide clarity and perspective on the event so you can regain your footing.
- Take responsibility where it’s warranted. If you messed up, apologize and do it well. Be specific about what you are sorry for and then discuss the plan of action to course-correct.
- Remember that you have value…just because. You deserve to be treated with respect. And so do your clients. I know for certain that the client in this story would never have reacted the way she had if her personal circumstances had been different. We are all human and we all have bad days. Find that common humanity and show others your kindness and understanding.
I hope you never have a client go off on you, but if something like this does happen to you, use these tips to help shake it off and keep going. And go get the world!