Having worked freelance on the side for a good chunk of my life, I’ve encountered a mishmash of clients here and abroad. And from experience, I absolutely detest the phrase “the customer is always right” as we all know this isn't always the case. But we are forced to suck in the rage and smile that big manic smile and pretend to wholeheartedly agree. However, sometimes, a smile just won't do the trick anymore, so here are a few other ways to help you keep your cool when dealing with a demanding client:
1. CTRL is key
You already know you do not have control over the other person, so it is better to take control of yourself. Arguing will bring you nowhere, especially when your client is riding high on displeasure, anger, and even anxiety. When you act on your emotions and fight back you are simply opening yourself to more frustration for all hell to break lose. Remember to stay calm and act on logic at all times by thinking before you speak.
2. Stop and listen
As much as it might pain you to sit there and receive an onslaught of demands and complaints, don't zone the other person out or attempt to run to the nearest emergency exit right away. Keep in mind that part of your job to listen and acknowledge any concerns. Refrain from rolling your eyes, fidgeting, or slouching. Allow the other person to vent out their issues.
3. Consider the silent treatment
Irate customers are easily agitated. When your client shows signs of irritation (regardless of whether it is your fault or not) don't chime in right away. The more your client increases the volume of his voice, the more you should keep yours steady, slow, and firm. Again, this is about showing control and in the process, possibly letting your client compose himself into a more relaxed demeanor.
4. Think Big Brother
One effective technique to keep your cool is to imagine your boss, supervisor, co-workers, or other clients witnessing your interaction. This method will immediately remind you that you need to act professionally since the image of having an audience will drastically change your emotional dynamic. After all you wouldn’t want other people to see you in a different light.
5. Use reverse psychology
When all else fails, one sneaky move is to turn the tables on your client by admitting to the mistake. This way, you gain the sympathy of your "audience." More often than not, a sign of surrender and agreement to a client is so unexpected that this person might even start defending you. It's a natural behavioral mechanism that when a person is allowed to win, she will start to be more open to what she was fighting against. Strategists find that this causes difficult clients to become more open to discussion, negotiation, or even compromise.
I also find that keeping several calming items within arms length keeps me from strangling an annoying and burdensome individual. Stress balls, aromatherapy candles, calm music, your favorite photo of a cute animal/loved one/selfie will help you stay zen while in the workplace. An emergency stash of chocolate will also work wonders in boosting your endorphins to force those happy hormones. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures!