I recently received an e-mail in which I am asked the following:
How do you maintain a positive attitude when you have overly negative clients and can't afford to fire them? You appear to be nice to all your clients, some days I just can't.
Here was part of my response:
I'm actually an asshole, so it's not hard to understand where these people are coming from. I had to work REALLY HARD at improving who I am or better said who I was, a big selfish asshole.
Growing up I was never far from being the punch line to a joke or being pushed around. I had little understanding up until a few years ago how much that had affected me negatively. From my Mom, my extended family or classmates, there's always been a constant source of negativity in or around my life. I was encouraged to do well, so long as it was in an avenue that deemed appropriate like school or a degree towards medicine.
I always had trouble making friends or initiating conversations with strangers. Even flashing a smile was a pain, preferring to look away from direct eye contact. It's something that didn't come naturally to me. I bottled up my emotions inside, and as a result I was an angry person. An angry person who thought the world had it out for me, and I was putting others down because it was the only way to make myself feel better.
Fast forward to the present day.
While I can "turn it on" and be really outgoing when I need to, it's not who I naturally am. I believe I'll always be a fairly quiet and reserved individual. What I will never be is an overly negative angry person again. Having been in those shoes, perhaps your client needs a friend and I say that in the least condescending way possible. People who are that negative and critical are usually unhappy.
I was an unhappy person.
I tell you all this to give you context. To give you some background behind WHY someone might be the way they are. Anytime someone is rude, inconsiderate or just straight out mean; I take a second to think why are they acting like that and then respond accordingly. It's often hostility masking another emotion: for me it was a feeling of inadequecy and loneliness. Empathy is an under utilized emotion, practice it and you will be an even better coach.
Now to the business side of this question, what to do when you really dread the scheduled hour but you need to keep the lights on in your apartment. Well my friend like any good fitness question the answer is it depends.
Can you scale back spending in other areas to make due?
If so, by how much will you be off your necessary monthly income?
If it's not a lot you can decide then if you wish to keep this client.
If not, what are you proactively doing to replace this client?
We must not act emotionally instead you need to formulate a plan.
Are you marketing?
If so, for how long have you been at it? Has it generated any leads?
Have you tried asking any existing clients for a referral in exchange for a percentage off their next month/package? (By far the best approach)
There's a lot you can do besides simply "firing" the client. Once you can replace the income then you can decide whether or not to cut ties with said "negative" client. Though I would try to take the empathetic route first. I appear to be nice to all my clients because I thoroughly enjoy the time I get to spend with each and every one of them! No acting only geniuine care and love for their health and improvement as people.
Reflecting back on this response I would like to add this: I am a happy person now. I've learned to forgive those who may have wronged me in the past. I hold no grudges and try to always move forward. I have my health, a fantastic home life, a thriving business and my family; really what would I have to be unhappy about. If you put out love and happiness you'll get just that in return.
Smile, it costs you nothing and can even turn someone's day around. I am forever grateful for who I was because it's made me the driven person I am today. This is the first holiday season I can say with clarity that I have everything I will ever need. Anything else I accomplish moving forward is simply the cherry on top.