Maintaining respectful boundaries with a client

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Believe

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Maintaining respectful boundaries with a client
« on: October 16, 2020, 02:21:58 PM »
Hello,
It's been a long while since I've posted anything and just want to say that this site was so very helpful when I was dealing with a critical situation some time ago. So thank you for that!

Just when I think I've learned how to set my boundaries, it seems I'm being tested. Started working with a client who is verbally abusive. I've seen how they act toward others but the attitude I saw on display hadn't gotten around to me until recently. The good news is that this relationship won't be forever, it'll be more like 6-8 months. I want to make the best of it but I'm also prepared to walk away from the job if things get out of hand.

And then I start to wonder if my perception is off and that I'm imagining a threat because of my life long experience with a family member who almost destroyed me.

An email exchange I recently had with the client made me question how I can best handle things going forward. So far, in two emails from the client, the same sentence came up from them which said "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings". I'm not going into the full details of the exchange but when you're only a couple of months into a working relationship and this is where it's going, it's a red flag.

My observation of such a statement is that the client is trying to manipulate me into thinking that my poor feelings are getting hurt so it must be me who is having the problem, not them. I can see it a mile away. I want to diffuse this obvious attempt to negate that they are in fact the one who has commented to me repeatedly about others who they deem as having an attitude problem, when they are the person breeding and inspiring a level of anxiety in others. The work I do is a creative process and I'm concerned that verbal abuse and accusations are going to affect my work. I don't want to play the game of receiving angry emails to which I then feel I should respond to hold up my end of integrity only to then be accused of overreacting, or worse, being disrespectful of them.

Let me be clear. There was no error in anything I presented to the client. All they had to say was "Thank you for this, I'd love to also see x". I've worked with clients for over 12 years and I've been lucky to work with people who appreciate what I am doing for them. I have a great track record and receive almost all of my business from referrals. This client does not know how to communicate respectfully and I'm concerned I'll be a target of their abusive thinking. And I see the game playing out already in this early stage - first an overblown response from them and then an apology.

Like I said, I'm prepared to walk away and I keep telling myself that. But it would mean disappointing another team member and putting them in a difficult position to proceed. So, it would be best if I can stay on board and make this thing work.

I just don't know how to not respond. Over the years, I've earned the respect and gratitude of my clients and I'm very proud of that. What I'm thinking is that prior to the next invoice I will evaluate whether or not I am willing to continue working closely with someone who will twist my words and attempt to belittle me. I won't have it and the feeling in my gut has been there from the beginning. I took the job because of the times we're in and it was a great opportunity to do some good work.

Thank you very much for reading this. I didn't know where else to express what I'm feeling.  :blink:

Cheers.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill

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notrightinthehead

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Re: Maintaining respectful boundaries with a client
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2020, 06:50:07 PM »
How about going back to the basics? Medium Chill?
"Thank you for not wanting to hurt my feelings. I work very hard to make my clients happy. "

I have found that whenever I thought I had made progress in my healing, I encountered a situation that would seriously test me. Maybe that is it for you - a test if you have mastered difficult people 101.
I can't hate my way into loving myself.

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mayaberry

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Re: Maintaining respectful boundaries with a client
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2020, 08:22:43 PM »
I agree with the medium chill idea. I don't even know if it's necessary to acknowledge that they even mentioned hurting your feelings. It's difficult without knowing the whole exchange but could you even just bat it back in a completely non-commital way by saying discussions are part of the process or its just about finding what works etc. Something that takes all emotion out of it and doesn't imply to them that you are feeling emotional about it (because it seems as though from what you're saying that they might be deliberately trying to antagonise you?).
I also agree that you think you can handle these situations and then something just sets you off again and you need support. I posted the other day about my difficulties in dealing with the mum of a friend of my daughter's. I know that my feelings are right on the edge with this woman because of my narcissistic mother in law and sister and law and all of the things I have endured with them. This forum has been amazing in helping me deal with them over the years and I feel so much better at managing them (although there are still times it's extremely difficult) but I find it really hard when I'm suddenly confronted with red flags and warning signs in other people, it just triggers me.
I hope this works out for you.

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Believe

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Re: Maintaining respectful boundaries with a client
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2020, 04:00:29 PM »
Thank you for your comments. I have a meeting with the client tomorrow and appreciate your insights. I'm annoyed that this person's behavior is taking up too much space in my mind but I also know that with a bit of smart strategy I can avoid allowing this person to trigger the worst in me. If I didn't already have lifelong experience with this kind of emotional manipulation I think I'd be really torn up by this person. And if things escalate I am willing to stop working with this client. For now, doing what I can to make the best of it and I consider it a learning experience. Difficult people are in the world so I guess the point is that even when you know there is a problem, building on skills can be helpful.

But then again, I kind of wish I would have listened to my instincts from day one and walked away. Or, I should have charged a lot more! For some reason, the universe has put me in this position so I'll do the best I can with it.

Thanks again for your kindness.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill