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Understanding Difficult Clients

These individuals can be divided into two larger categories that we have non-scientifically named 'aggressive' and 'passive' for our own convenience. (Hey, we're writing this, it is getting far along in the workshop and we are sure you are too tired to memorize Latin names and equally sure that having more impressive-sounding categories wouldn't help anyway.)

Let's take the "passive" type first. In reviewing research for this section (yes, we don't just make this stuff up. What? Are you surprised?) we read a lot on "passive-aggressive" personalities. From our experience, we think that misses the point with a lot of the clients we know. Yes, there definitely are those people who will miss appointments because "You can't tell me what to do!" and they are going to show you, but in most cases, we have not found that to be the issue.

The 'passive' difficult clients, in the words of one experienced counselor,

"They just don't do anything! They don't take responsibility. I schedule appointments with them, and they don't come in. I call and their phone has been disconnected."

Spirit Lake President, Dr. Erich Longie explains it this way,

"What I see in about half of the people that fit the profile you just described is that they have what I call a Non-working Lifestyle.Everything is a habit. People who work, plan their life around their work. I see that all the time -

  • I can't go to the pool tournament because I have to work at the gas station.
  • I can't go to the pool tournament because I can't stay up late because I have to open the store in the morning.

People who have a non-working lifestyle are just the opposite.

  • I can't go to that job interview, because I have to check the mail.
  • I can't go to that vocational rehabilitation appointment because I have to go visit my friend.

This really upsets some staff members because, from their point of view, those are such trivial reasons. The staff member, though, is looking at life from their own perspective. Your first step in having an impact with these individuals is understanding their perspective. It is not passive-aggressive behavior to get back at you. It is nothing personal. This is the habit, the way they have gotten used to living. To be an effective employee, of course, that lifestyle will have to change."


Next page, understanding a non-working lifestyle

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. -- P.O.Box 663, 314 Circle Dr., Fort Totten, ND 58335 Tel: (701) 351-2175 Fax: (800) 905 -2571
Email us at: Info@SpiritLakeConsulting.com