“I recently got hit with a bit of harsh criticism from a client recently and, I must say that I’m struggling with it. It’s not as if I’ve never been criticized before. I have a graphic design background and my instructors at school were ruthless. And it’s not because I got it from a paying client. I think it’s because of how personal the criticism felt to me from a paying customer. I’m hoping you can post on article on this as I’d like to hear if others have also experienced this and if so, how they dealt with it. Thanks.”
Thanks Christopher. I’m sorry you’ve had to encounter this from a client. It’s an interesting question you’ve asked. In the many years that I’ve been a PFRE reader, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article written about this topic. So, I’ll give you my two-cents and then will very much look forward to seeing how our community responds.
All Feedback Is a Gift
I’d like to share two bits of advice that I got from different bosses that I had when I worked in a corporate setting. The first boss used to say, regularly, “Feedback is a gift.” In your case Christopher, this one might be a challenge because you’ve indicated that the feedback given to you felt more like a personal attack. Nevertheless, the advice is sound. Are you able to “park” the personal nature of the feedback off to the side, just for a little while, so as to give you the chance to consider the spirit behind what was said to you? I know it’s easier said than done but, more often than not, the effort is worth it.
The M.R.I. Approach
The advice that I got from the second boss that I noted earlier, was to “practice M.R.I.”, an abbreviation for “most respectful interpretation”. In other words, what’s the most respectful interpretation that you can make regarding what was said to you. For instance, you might presume that this person shared what they did out of a sense of anger or frustration because they were already having a terrible day when they answered your phone call. This technique is really hard to do because it’s so easy for all of us to presume the worst but if done well, it serves to reduce your blood pressure and prompt you to think of another way of seeing the situation. Psychologically, it doesn’t really matter if your interpretation is accurate or not. The time you take to rationally look for the respectful interpretation is time that isn’t spent on blowing things out of proportion, on your end.
There is, however, a caveat to this MRI approach and that is, you have to limit the number of times that you use it with the same individual. If someone mistreats you the first time, then the MRI approach sees it as an isolated incident. If you have to use it another time, then perhaps it’s a coincidence. However, if the behavior happens again, then it’s a pattern and you’ve got to make the other person aware of how their behavior/words are affecting you and that it must stop. On a personal note, I used this approach last year with a client of mine over several shoots. I was increasingly troubled by what I perceived to be his condescending attitude and slights toward me. There were a number of small exchanges that included eye-rolling at certain comments and being interrupted when making suggestions. Anyway, after chatting with him about my concerns, it was clear that his condescension was not an isolated incident. The result was that he became the first (and only) client I’ve ever fired.
Even if you don’t find these specific bits of input helpful, I would encourage you to consider some core relationship management advice that is often cited as CRM best practices:
Anyway Christopher, I hope this has been helpful. I’m sure that our community will also offer their input and support in their comments. Thanks again for writing in. I’m wishing you a quick resolution to your situation!
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.