Dr. Heather Ehinger, LMFT

Heather Ehinger, founder of Family Therapy Associates and the MacLetchie Institute and a licensed marriage and family therapist, spoke to a group of entrepreneurial women last week in Norwalk, CT. Her topic, and who would be a better expert than Heather, was working with difficult clients.

She quickly got the roomful of women business owners engaged by having us call out characteristics of our most memorably difficult clients. Then, she surprised us (me, for sure!) by asking us where we felt the pain of the particular characteristic we experienced when facing our nemesis.

“Disrespectful” was felt in one member’s shoulders.
“Never does what she says she’s going to do,” showed up as a headache.
“Questions everything I recommend,” caused pain in the solar plexus.

Heather quickly let us know that when we feel these irritations in our bodies, especially in a designated area, they are actually pointing to our own wounds, areas in our lives where we’re personally challenged.

We may have one of two responses to our difficult clients–we can get very scattered, or we can compartmentalize. Neither deals directly with the situation at hand, but instead avoids it or behaves in other distracting ways to make the pain go away. A mere blog post can’t do justice to all that Heather talked about. But, what she recommends is to become ‘porous.’ “Get curious!” Find out more about what’s going on with your client (and yourself). Rather than completely avoiding the person, Heather provided us with her steps for working with difficult clients. Here are a couple of those which you can try out:

  1. Talk/explore/LISTEN with your client, ask them about the situation with CURIOSITY. People want to be understood and heard. While you normally would not give that much time to a client to hear the back story, this may be well worth it.
  2. Observe what they do/observe how they react, and how you react to the offered solutions.

In Heather’s experience, turning around a difficult client situation can produce big fans for her work. When you take the time to truly understand what’s causing you/them pain, you can create a grateful and appreciative, lifelong relationship in the process.

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