The Difficult Client…

January 26, 2019 at 12:51 pm 11 comments

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Who is your least favorite client?
That difficult client.
Take a moment…think…

Oh, what? You don’t need a moment? He or she just pops up immediately with no delay?
Right! I know!!!! Our least favorite clients are such a bummer and they don’t even leave our minds! What is wrong with them? They are so difficult!

He is so bossy!
She doesn’t even listen to me!
I have to repeat the same thing over and over again and he still doesn’t do it right!
She complains all of the time…why does she even come?
I hate working with him!
I hate working with her!
Can I fire him?
Can I get rid of her?

Am I right…or am I right?

Well, here it comes…

If you’ve read my articles or worked with me, you pretty much know what I’m about to say, but it’s time to listen up more than before: not every client is going to be your favorite. (Remember the piece: Your Favorite Client ?) You’re very fortunate that you adore most of your clients and they adore you. But that one or some who trouble you..who you dread each session…let’s take a look at what’s really happening here. 

First, I hear you! I do.
I really hear you!
I have had clients who the mere thought of ruined my day.
But I learned that I had to “get over” that because running a business means that sometimes you’re not going to like everyone you work with.

I had to really look into myself to see why I was disliking this person so much. Or why this person had such power over me. Why I gave myself over to this disdain and why I even cared.

There are many reasons why we get caught up in the grief of the difficult client. Often, it’s our expectations and our ability or lack to command our sessions/classes.

What are your expectations for your clients? For your sessions? Let’s be reasonable.  Are they such that a client who rushes exercises is so troubling? Or a client who can’t make the connections you wish her to make really makes you so frustrated? That bossy client that ruins your day… Why does this person have so much control over you? Why have you given your control to her?

This is what we have to discover.

It does come down to expectations.

What are you expecting from a session? From your client? I believe our goals for our clients is helping them to achieve their own reasonable physical goals and our goals for them. Our goals for them usually revolve around helping them “balance their bodies.” That’s it.

You simply cannot do the work for them. They have to be self-motivated. So, when you are suffering over their inability to make connections or be as coordinated as you’d like…it’s time to release that. You do your best to give good verbal and hands-on cues without actually moving your client in the exercise like a doll. You do your best to give images. And then your client does his or her best. That’s all. And while your clients’ best is not necessarily your desire…not meeting your expectations…it’s your expectations that must change.

That’s key: your expectations must change. Strive for the most, of course, the most that is available for this client on this day in this situation. When you find yourself frustrated, you are likely frustrated because of your inappropriate expectations for your client.

Yes, it’s true. It’s annoying, I know…and true.

Check your expectations that you have for your clients. 

Check your expectations of yourself in a session…on what you are really able to achieve.
It’s OK for your client to do less than you want, but as much as she can with her drive. Not your drive. Her drive.

It’s OK for your client to take years to make a connection that you wish that he would make in a few weeks. It’s OK. It’s his abilities. Not yours. His.

Again, you work hard. You strive for your clients, but you’ve got to check on your expectations and consider if they are reasonable for that client what is in front of you showing who he or she is relative to this material.


Command With Kindness
Now, also consider that your bossy, pushy, client who drives you nuts… Why is he or she able to run the show? Have you genuinely sought to “command the session with kindness?” Have you let her take over the session? Have you given him the position of control?

It’s your responsibility to command a session with kindness. What I mean by that is that you’ve got to be the one in charge of the session. Not with an iron fist (usually the sign of insecurity and immaturity), but with kindness. Strength with understanding and the knowledge to back up what you’re doing and why.
And maturity.
Being able to have a straightforward and mature conversation with a client is important: Mike, you are a very hard worker and have great potential to achieve your goals, but when you tell me what to do in the session, you diminish your opportunities. I understand that you are usually in charge of everything, your business, your family, but here, in the studio, during our sessions, I am in charge of making sure you get what you need relative to Pilates.

And then…you go into the next exercise…
The Short Box! (Or whatever it is!)

Maybe your client is rushing you and the session goes at your client’s rushed pace rather than the one you intended. Or your client does everything slow and you want it to be faster. Or your client doesn’t even seem to listen to you. Again, a mature conversation where you command with kindness: Melinda, all people have their natural tempos/speeds of movement, but in Pilates we have well-defined rhythms and tempos of each exercise. Listen carefully to my voice and follow it so that you really can achieve your physical goals.

And then…then you’d better be real clear about your rhythm and tempos
(Need a great assist here? Check out my The Music of Pilates…it’s the rhythms and tempos of Joseph PIlates exercises and why each is as they are in ways you can learn and practice and get PMA CECs! Click here: The Music of Pilates
Read this piece: The Best Pilates Teaching Tool)

It’s tempting to stay away from straightforward conversations that would really just make life easier. You think you’re being kind by tip-toeing around. But instead you’re truly the one causing the issue because you’re not having the necessary conversation. Command with kindness.

Oh, I know! I know…it’s tricky! 

And it’s not.

Once you get used to commanding your sessions with kindness, then it’s easy! You’ll feel great and so will your client!


Check on your expectations.
Check on your ability to be in charge of the session; command with kindness.

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The Abusive Client
When you do these things, then nearly no one is your least favorite client. I say nearly no one, because sometimes we actually have abusive clients. For them, again, we need to have a mature conversation. If the result is a good one with positive change, then continue on. If the result is that nothing changes and your client remains abusive, then you talk with the manager or owner of the studio and discuss how to get that person off of your schedule. Mature conversations.  At my own studio, I had a client who would curse at me. I stopped the session and said “it is not appropriate to curse at me because you are frustrated with yourself. Either you stop this and assign your frustration to the right person or we are done here.”
She apologized and remained my 3 time a week, loyal, loving client thereafter!

Have I had times when it hasn’t gone so well? Sure.

I had a client who was always creepy. He checked me and my other studio teachers out in just the wrong way. Still, he was a friend of a great client, so I thought all was well. Just before I got the strength to have the mature conversation (I wasn’t good at those at that time), unprovoked, he grabbed me during a session and tried to kiss me. Well…that ended with him being kicked out and warned never to return.
A case of commanding with kindness to myself and super save-myself-protection!
He was my least favorite client and I got rid of him.


You Deserve To Feel Good
All in all, take a look at the situation. See what part in it you play. Consider your role in this. I know that, for myself, I want each hour that I teach to be a great hour for me, not just a great hour for my client. And our clients feel how we feel about them. You’re not able to hide it so well! We are sentient beings! So, take the time to come to terms with why you dislike this client so much. You deserve it!

Do you want to talk out a challenging situation? Give me a holler! I am always available for a consultation! Just email me at and we can set up a consultation session!

****Please reach out with questions, comments, concerns! The comment section is perfect for that, but if you have something more personal to discuss, always just email me at

****Let’s work together!
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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deborah Kahan  |  January 26, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    I can honestly say that I love and enjoy every single client I have.
    Super lucky

    • 2. theverticalworkshop  |  January 26, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      I’m so happy for you!!! Me, too!!! Did I used to? No…but I do now! xo

  • 3. Janet Burke Allen  |  January 26, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    I remember having this conversation with you before! But oh so good to be reminded and revisited! I will be trying harder on Monday to teach with kindness!
    Thanks Shari

    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  January 26, 2019 at 6:24 pm

      I have no doubt that you teach with kindness and compassion!

  • 5. Terri Josephson  |  January 27, 2019 at 10:00 am

    I want to thank you for taking the time and energy to write your blogs. I Always come away learning something.

  • 7. Shelly  |  January 27, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Great Article !! AS always thank you for taking the time to share and inspire !

    • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  January 28, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Thank you, Shelly! I am so glad you enjoyed it! Just good stuff to remember and for which to take note.

  • 9. yogamaryhorne  |  February 17, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    I am a therapist and yoga teacher and have had to look at why I’m struggling with a couple of clients lately. As you said, I found that it had to do with my expectations but also with what I was making it mean about me, i. e. that I was doing something wrong or wasn’t “good enough.” What a relief to name and release unrealistic expectations!

    • 10. theverticalworkshop  |  February 17, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      I’m so glad that this was useful to you! I dare say, I ought to change the name of the blog away form “Pilates Teacher Blog” because this entire blog is for all people who work with other people. I just use Pilates examples and rarely talk Pilates specific.
      Let’e keep practicing to release ourselves from unrealistic expectations. It is a practice, indeed!
      – Shari

      • 11. yogamaryhorne  |  February 17, 2019 at 4:19 pm

        You definitely could change the name! We all encounter similar issues in working with others in helping professions. Thanks for your writing and yes, let’s keep up that practice of awareness and letting go!

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