Doing business one-to-one, you’ll face challenges unseen in ecommerce. Working personally with others, even if only for a brief moment, requires a unique kind of patience. When working with clients, for example, it takes time to understand their vision, and you’ll undoubtedly need to work out misunderstandings along the way.

Working with people directly also puts you in a position to receive odd requests and various excuses. No matter how frustrated you get, how you handle each situation matters. Here’s how to make those challenging situations a little easier:

Dig deeply until you understand their reasoning

When a customer or client makes an odd request, remember that it’s coming from their perspective. If they’re not a professional in your field, they’re probably unaware of how things work, making their request appear odd.

For instance, say you’re a freelance website developer and a client asks you to program a song to play automatically for visitors. To you, that request sounds bizarre. Nobody plays music automatically because it annoys visitors. Isn’t that obvious?

It’s not obvious to your client. They aren’t thinking as a developer. There’s a reason your client wants music to start playing. Instead of convincing them why music is a bad idea, first find out what they want to accomplish with the music. Then come up with a different solution and explain to them why music is counterproductive.

Perhaps they want to create a specific mood or share their favorite song with visitors. Whatever their intent is, you know there’s a better way, and giving in to your client’s request won’t support them.

Clear and strictly enforced expectations go a long way

While offering solutions for handling excuses, this Houston property management company simultaneously points out the root of the problem: not setting clear expectations from the start. They say tenants with financial issues will look for pushover landlords willing to accept their excuses for late rent. Establishing this dynamic with a tenant puts landlords in a precarious financial position indefinitely.

Instead of letting people off the hook, hold them to account for their agreement from day one. If you feel like bending the rules once in a while, that’s okay, as long as you’re prepared to handle people who might take advantage of you.

Understand excuses but don’t let them change your agreement

Never give in to a client or customer’s excuses, no matter how valid. If your client falls in a hole, breaks their leg, loses their job, and can’t pay you, sympathize with their experience, understand their needs and give them time, but don’t let them off the hook.

Plenty of people sustain injuries and manage to pay their bills. They may need to make payment arrangements, but don’t allow the excuse to change your agreement. If you do, they’ll expect special treatment for less severe problems in the future.

Excuses are often unconsciously manipulative

An excuse is a defensive reaction intended to provide protection from the emotional impact of blame. Blame makes people feel misunderstood. Even when a person is clearly responsible, an excuse can relieve some of the pressure.

Being understood doesn’t change the situation, but it makes them feel like their circumstances are valid. For instance, when clients and customers are behind on their payments, they know nobody else is responsible, yet they still want their debtor to understand why they’re having a hard time making their payments on time.

Clients who seek relief through having their circumstances validated is understandable but not acceptable. People don’t know the most effective solution is to acknowledge their responsibility and recommit to the agreement moving forward. Or, if they can’t meet the agreement, request a reasonable modification.

Get in their world

Getting in someone’s world requires standing in their shoes, looking out at the world from their perspective. Understanding someone’s motivation doesn’t mean you agree with it. For example, parents can understand why a kid might steal a piece of candy from the store, but (hopefully) won’t condone it.

Understanding what motivates someone to take a specific action gives you the insight needed to gain some leverage. For instance, two clients might be perpetually behind on their invoices for entirely different reasons. Perhaps the first client is living paycheck-to-paycheck while the second client is forgetful. Most people would enforce a late fee across the board, but that doesn’t always work.

For the first client, your best leverage to get paid on time might be agreeing on a different payment arrangement. Imposing a strictly enforced late fee would be effective leverage with the second client because you know they have the money.

Understanding what drives a person to make an excuse or strange request is your ticket to creating harmony and resolution in your client or customer relationships.