The Society of Professional Consultants

Helping Solo Professionals Develop and Grow Their Businesses and Effectively Serve Their Clients

Dealing with Stressed Out Clients

This information was last updated on April 23, 2020
Compiled by Theresa Peek, Peek Learning Consultants

Under stress many people become defensive.

When people feel threatened or are triggered, people’s behavior can become dysfunctional. Remaining non-defensive is crucial to collaboration and trust.

Knowing the signs of defensiveness provides an early warning system. This can help you stop your defensive behavior or modify your behavior to help your client be less defensive.

Under stress many people do things differently than they normally would – as an example a person who normally is very collaborative when it comes to conflict might become confrontational or might avoid a conflict completely.

When people are stressed and acting differently than normal, active listening skills and clear communication are critical. To communicate clearly consider both words and behaviors. It is important to understand each side’s point of view, so consider both the substance and the emotional undercurrent of the message of both you and your client.

Under stress many people lose the ability to be resilient, and they struggle with how to deal with situations.

  • Think about your emotional triggers – who and what pushes your buttons.
  • Reflect on your experiences where you had to rise above a difficult situation.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What happened?
    • What was I thinking and feeling at the time?
    • How did I get through it?
    • What did I do that helped me get through that situation?
    • What did I learn from the experience that has made me a more resilient person today?

Resilience is the skill and the capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change. Evidence shows that resilience can be learned.

Some ideas for building resiliency included:

    • Step away
    • Slow down
    • Enlist an ally to help you control your reactions
    • Take the time to choose your response
    • Have a positive outlook
    • Have goals
    • Be empathetic and compassionate
    • Focus on things you have control over and don’t think of yourself as a victim
    • Help your clients do the above

References and Further Reading

Conflict Under Stress

The Contagion We Can Control

Developing Resilience

FIRO Theory

How Resilience Works

Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks

Quit Being So Defensive

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