What Do You Do When Your Client Is Not Listening to You?

Business Leader Post, February 4, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

The first thing to find out is if you have the same agendas. Clients, especially family business clients, always have more than one agenda—a business agenda and an overlapping emotional agenda. The business’ agenda can be very clear-cut and logical. The emotional agenda is not clear cut at all and has a very irrational component to it. While you may be speaking to the business agenda, your client may not be responding because s/he is involved in an emotional agenda, which frequently is at odds with the business agenda. While you, as the professional advisor, are talking rationally, s/he can’t hear you because the emotions that are triggered by the discussion block the ability to think as you are thinking. If that is the case, then you have to give some validity to their emotional agenda.

First, you have to take the emotional issues seriously. If for no other reason, those issues are serious to them and need to be listened to. Your clients have a right to their feelings, and you can never disagree with someone’s feelings. However, you do want to help them not to act solely on those emotional issues because emotional based behavior can stand in the way of a fair business deal or outcome.

Creating a balance is usually the right way, but first you have to let them express those feelings. Getting those feelings out makes it easier to let them go. It also gives you a deeper understanding of your client which will raise the quality of the advice that you offer.