One thing about working in litigation support, that might not be as much fun, is that we have to deal with strong personalities. For whatever reason, there are a lot of strong personalities working in the legal industry. I am not just talking about attorneys. It applies to paralegals, legal secretaries, and consultants too. Oh yeah, and there are plenty of strong personalities in the litigation support role (my hand is raised).
I wrote an article a while back that addresses part of this issue, entitled 10 Things Not to Lose Your Cool Over in Litigation Support.
In this article, I want to share with you some tips that I have learned over the years for dealing with difficult clients.
- You know that expression, “put yourself in their shoes”? Well, I definitely do that. Are they under a lot of pressure? Do they not handle stress very well? Try to remember what their personality is like on a good day and show some compassion.
- Go into listening mode. Sometimes they just need to vent. They want someone to listen. Don't interrupt them. Let them rant. When they finally pause, do not patronize them.
- Use clear communication skills. Get to your point quickly and offer to help in any way you can.
- Remain patient. My younger self did not handle this one very well. As I grew older, and after I had children, I learned how to be more patient. Ha!
- Demonstrate your knowledge or expertise in a way that makes them feel confident you can help. Avoid a condescending tone though.
- Use positive language. For example, “I can” instead of “I can't”.
- Pull out your acting skills. Yup, I went there. They may not calm down. They may be rude and condescending to you. They might be a “negative nellie” who complains about everything.
- Exude a calming presence, if you know how to do it.
- Focus on the goal. What is the end result they ultimately want?
- Use the mastery of persuasion. This is one of my greatest skills. It has to be delicate though.
- Speak with confidence. It will ease their anxiety if you sound like you can handle things on their behalf.
- Close the conversation. What I mean is, don't drag the conversation out too long. Wrap it up quickly, without giving the appearance of rushing.
Hopefully, some of these concepts will work for you. Good luck!
If you have any other suggestions, please share them in the comments area below.