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The Client From Hell – Now In Two Delicious Flavors!

So most of the time we try to keep things pretty positive around here. No one likes a whiner.

That said, sometimes it’s fun to let go, vent frustrations and commiserate together on the challenges of working in a creative field.

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to the FEP community ranting a bit about bad clients and bosses.  One of our readers, Dave Lent, actually emailed me back and had some funny things to say about “Clients from Hell”.

I enjoyed the quick read so I thought I’d pass it along to everyone.

Here’s what he sent me.

Enter Dave Lent

The Client from Hell comes in at least two common varieties:

Variety #1: The Just Plain Incompetent

S/he may be earnest and well-intentioned but is short on experience or simply belongs in a different line of work. The JPI struggles with managing stress and often directs his or her anxiety, impatience or frustration at the nearest, most convenient target.

Variety #2: The Demon-Possessed

Tormented either by unsettled emotional issues or any number of suppressed predicaments, DPs include tyrants, bullies, jerks, chauvinists, micro managers, prima donnas and brats. They are typically pushy, inconsiderate, controlling, confrontational, hard-driving, or uncommunicative. They are not bad people, however, and when the dust settles they can be the sweetest souls you’d ever want to (rarely) meet.

We can’t change the people we work with but we can change the ways we respond to them—which often changes the way they treat us. With lessons from my own experience and feedback of friends and colleagues, I employ two more-or-less effective techniques for getting through the day with a Client from Hell.

1) The Deflector Shield: For the bully, brat, jerk or micro manager, I deploy The Deflector Shield. I imagine wearing an invisible, custom-fitted, plexiglass body suit.

When someone is rude or abusive, I visualize his or her toxic words or negative energy bouncing harmlessly off my shield. Nothing penetrates except the technical or logistical information necessary for the work:

“Where’s the next location?” or “How much time do I have to set up?” No recommendations, jokes or small talk. I like plexiglass because it’s clear, durable and shatterproof. Choose any material you want. Learning to create and use the shield takes practice, but it works – not only for The Client from Hell, but for anyone who doesn’t treat you well.

2) The Tropical Island: For the incompetent or stressed out client, I’ll narrow my focus to only the task at hand, becoming the one person my client can go to for calm and order.

I deflect whatever comes at me by bending like a palm tree in a strong wind. No matter how flustered the client, I’ll be his/her island of tranquility. This mindset, like learning to use the Deflector Shield, takes a lot of reps to master and I still have a long way to go. But after each meltdown I’m a little better prepared for the next one.

In video production, as in life, we encounter people who feel the need to unload their frustration, anger or unhappiness on others. Yet one never fully knows what burdens these people might be carrying, so it’s a good idea to practice patience and compassion in our daily interactions with everyone we meet.

(This excerpt is from Dave’s book: VIDEO RULES…How to think about how to shoot)

Do you have any great war stories about painful projects or bad clients? Anything funny? Infuriating maybe? 

Share your best client story below.

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