Ask me about my business, and I will always tell you what fantastic clients I have. Ask less successful people, and I’ll bet many of them will tell you how horrible their clients are.

What happened here? Was there some cosmic shift where all the lousy customers suddenly fell off my radar and onto theirs? No, something even more profound actually happened. We communicate differently.

So here is a simple way to get rid all of your negative customers: Treat everything they say as being perfectly reasonable.

Impossible demands? Gosh, I can see exactly why you need that. Complaining about everything? Your feelings make perfect sense to me. Inexplicable project delays? Happens to the best of us. Criticizing my work, or me personally? Glad you spoke up, please tell me more. Whatever they say, I am going to own it completely.

Am I just kissing up to these people? NO. Am I giving in to their every demand? NO. I am simply treating them as completely reasonable people who have a right to feel the way they do. And I am using what psychologists call strength-based communications to speak to their interests. Whenever I do this, something magical usually happens: they become nice people who are easy to deal with.

Take a consulting project I was on years ago. The client warned me that I would need to get the data for it from The Dragon Lady (his words). According to him, she was mean, rude, and took her sweet time to respond to people.

So when I went over to see her, I warmly greeted her, “Hi, Dragon Lady!” (I used her real name, of course…) We made small talk about the pictures on her desk. And when the discussion turned to work, I observed that it must be a lot of pressure to have everyone descending on her demanding data at the last minute. She lit up, agreed immediately with me, and added that no one at her workplace ever noticed this.

People were later surprised at how quickly I got the data I needed. But that wasn’t even the point. I never thought she was a Dragon Lady. I thought she was a really nice person. We had a great working relationship. And if everyone else would have taken the time to relate to her like a fellow human being, they probably would have had the same great relationship with her that I did.

Does this approach work for every single negative person in your life? No. Does it mean that you should never ever consider “firing” an unproductive customer relationship? No again. But way more often than you think, getting rid of your most difficult customers is often as close as the next time you open your mouth. Try it and see for yourself!

Have you ever tried this with a “difficult” customer? We’d love to hear about some of your experiences.