When you don’t like your client

Guest post by Corrina Gordon-Barnes, www.youinspireme.co.uk


Do you love every client you have?

I teach self-employed men and women how to get clients. Yet often, I hear (in hushed tones) that they want to un-get some of their clients.

The clients who turn up late, and who quibble about price; the clients who stay stuck in their stories, and who give bad feedback; the clients with monotonous voices, who are passive aggressive, who blame everyone else, who smell, who don’t take action, who show resistance, who change their mind, who send too many emails.

What’s your version of a “bad” client?


Watching the Clock

When clients are thin on the ground, it can feel especially hard to say no to the ones you don’t love. You watch the clock during your sessions; their voice grates on you. You find it hard to see their redeeming features, but you need their money so you say yes to the next piece of work with them.

It’s painful enough to feel dread about working with a particular client, but the effect can be even more damaging to your business – disliking particular clients can lead to you unconsciously sabotaging yourself from marketing yourself further. If you’re not enjoying the clients you’re with, why would you try to find more?

If you recognise this pain, I invite you to question the thoughts that are blocking you from loving your clients.


The Work of Byron Katie – A Way Back to Love

There are two parts to The Work of Byron Katie: firstly, identifying the thoughts that cause our discomfort and, secondly, questioning them.

Today, let’s explore how to identify the thoughts. For this, download a copy of the Judge Your Neighbour worksheet from Byron Katie’s website – thework.com – and I’ll guide you through how to fill it out.



I imagine you might notice some resistance to writing down your judgemental “negative” thoughts. As a healer, coach, practitioner, facilitator or service provider, we don’t want to admit that it ever feels like we’re tolerating or enduring a client. We’re good people; we love others; we’re kind and supportive.

From my experience of working with hundreds, if not thousands, of self-employed men and women over the years, please let me reassure you that it is NORMAL and COMMON to have irritation, annoyance, resentment or even despair with certain clients.

Whether you feel out of your depth, or the client is bumping up against key values of yours, let yourself be honest about the thoughts that arise for you about them.

I’ve found such freedom in humbly identifying, and then questioning, the thoughts that would block me from loving my clients and I wish the same for you.


What’s the Situation?

In order to identify the stress-causing thoughts, zone in on a specific moment where you weren’t enjoying being with a client.

Perhaps you were on the phone with them, or in a consulting room. Maybe they were on your massage table, or you received an email from them.

Find that moment where something angered, confused, or disappointed you about that client and jot it down in the blank space at the very top of the Judge Your Neighbour worksheet.



I’m in a workshop and the participant is taking up a lot of time, telling her story in depth, being dramatic. The trigger moment is when, with big hand gestures, she refers to a family member as “the abusive one” and looks to others in the room for their sympathy.

Tip: Once you’ve identified the trigger moment, stay as close to that moment in time as you can as you fill out the full Judge Your Neighbour worksheet.


Statement 1 – The Offence

Identify the emotion you felt at the trigger moment.

Identify the “offence” – what specifically did your client do that was the trigger?


I am repelled by my client because she doesn’t want to drop her story.

I am angry with my client because she doesn’t want to actually do the work.

I am exasperated with my client because she’s playing for my attention.

Is your client asking you for a refund, or wasting your time? Is she writing you a long-winded email, or making weird noises as you give her treatment? Is he ignoring your advice, or breaking his promise to you? Whatever the offence is, write it as statement 1.

Tip: I find it helpful to include “me” or “my” in the statements where possible; it puts me at the receiving end of the offence and makes it clear why this action bothered me in particular.


Statement 2 – The Wants

Identify what you wanted in that moment. How did you want your client to change? What did you want your client to do? List as many wants as come to you; you might find it helpful to picture yourself stamping your feet like a toddler having a temper tantrum, to allow your wants to come out.


I want her to grow up.

I want her to stop being such a drama queen.

I want her to realise this is her story.

I want her to see I’m not buying into her drama.

I want her to see her part in her family drama.


Statement 3 – The Advice

What advice would you offer your client? What should they do? What shouldn’t they do? Look closely at that image of your client and give them a step-by-step recipe. Aim for actions which are practical and doable by them.


She should catch herself labelling and judging.

She should write down her thoughts.

She shouldn’t continue to use the label “abusive one” without questioning it.

She should check her motive for sharing this story.

She should ask herself why she’s come to this event.


Statement 4 – The Needs

In order for you to move from the emotion you identified in statement 1 all the way to feeling happy, what do you need your client to think, say, feel or do?


I need her to leave this room.

I need her to make space for people who are genuinely interested in self-discovery.

I need her to be more humble.

I need her to be more likeable.

I need her to create warm feelings in me towards her.


Statement 5 – Who Are They?

In this situation, what do you think of your client? You might not think this about them all the time, but right in this moment, which nouns and adjectives describe them?


My client is a drama queen, attention-seeking, stuck, repetitive, self-deluded, unlikeable, un-evolved, acting like a martyr, in her story.

Tip: I sometimes find myself ashamed of what comes out in statement 5, but I’ve come to see the importance of being uncensored here. It doesn’t mean these are my only thoughts about this client, and it doesn’t mean that I believe my thoughts, but they cross my mind so I write them down. I’m more interested in my freedom than in pretending I’m holier-than-though. If you think a thought about your client in this situation, even for the briefest flicker of a second, write it down.


Statement 6 – The Line in the Sand

What is it you don’t ever want to experience again with this client? 


I don’t ever want this client to share her story with no intention of shifting it.

I don’t ever want this client to look to other participants for approval.

I don’t ever want this client to expect sympathy from me.

Tip: I like to frame statement 6 this way: I’ve been making my case throughout this whole worksheet and if I win my case, here’s my settlement agreement. If I win, I don’t ever want to experience __________ again.


What Next?

Once you’ve filled out a Judge Your Neighbour worksheet, identifying your thoughts about your client, it’s time to question them.

The Work consists of four questions and then the turnarounds; you can self-facilitate, book sessions with a certified facilitator, or call the Do The Work Helpline free of charge. Full information at thework.com.


Over to You

What do you discover as you fill out a Judge Your Neighbour worksheet about your client? Do you notice resistance to judging them, or are the thoughts delighted to be heard, uncensored? Does it feel taboo, or a relief? And if you take the next step and question your thoughts, I’d love to hear what you discover – about your client, about yourself, about running a business.


About the Author:

Corrina2015PROOF-10Corrina Gordon-Barnes teaches passionate, big-hearted self-employed folk how to market themselves and get paid to do what they love. Her popular online course Passion to Profit is running in September 2015; click here for full information and to get front of the queue. You can also sign up for her free weekly blogs.





  • Loolwa Media Service

    I appreciate the frank discussion about struggling with clients.
    Over the years, I had three clients whose behaviors undermined my ability to
    perform at my job, and who otherwise drove me nuts. I used those experiences to
    draft a “client expectations” document, which clearly outlines how I work and
    what I expect from clients in turn, and a five-page contract, which outlines the
    consequences for bad behavior. In addition, I used the experiences to get clear
    about what to look for, and look out for, in prospective clients. In effect,
    the nightmare clients were quite useful as learning experiences and in powering
    up my business!