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Client tells me too much of their personal information - how to handle this diplomatically?

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Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
1 of 12

 Hi,

 

I've had this happen twice in the recent past. I have a client I'm working for, all is going great, they like my work. They sometimes even hire me repeatedly for ongoing projects. Then for some reason, they start opening up to me, unsolicited about their personal lives. It's very awkward and uncomfortable to hear about someone's divorce, problems with kids, parents, or loved ones dying. It's difficult for me because I do feel sad about their situation, but at the same time, I have no clue how to respond. I have been saying, "I'm sorry you're going through that right now," or "I'm sorry you're having a rough time." And then get back to discussing the project or deliverables.

 

Is this the right way to handle this? We, freelancers, are pretty vulnerable because our reputation is what gets us more work. No one wants to get labeled negatively based on soft skills. I freelance for my entire income, so I always work to do the most outstanding service, with the best delivery. I worry that other factors, such as how much empathy or time spent listening to personal issues, will begin to factor into my reviews.

 

Any advice? 

Active Member
Parvez A Member Since: Jul 18, 2019
2 of 12

Nevertheless, if you want to work with him then you must handle it smarlty and be patient while conversation is ongoing with him. And ignore the bogus conversation....you should let him understand by your approach and the way of talk. if you ignore his personal issues twice or more then he may understand that you are not interested to listening his personal matter. then move forward. Good luck

Community Guru
Sergio S Member Since: Dec 19, 2017
3 of 12

This happens when you are easygoing and they feel very comfy working with you. I think you have responded well to those situations. Sometimes they have no-one to talk about it so I understand. Well, it happens in "real life" too, when a co-worker or boss talks to you about something that happened at their home, or with their boyfriend/girlfriend (at least it happened to me). If you really feel uncomfortable or sad maybe less chit-chat is the solution, but don't be direct. I usually let it go and help if I can. Knowing about their lives allows me to see the big picture and why they handle their projects the way they do. We cannot detach our personal lives completely from work, we are human beings after all.

Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
4 of 12

Thanks Sergio!  This is truly helpful perspective.

Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
5 of 12

Thank you.  This makes sense.

Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
6 of 12

Thanks Parvez!  This was very helpful.

Community Guru
Joan S Member Since: Mar 18, 2019
BEST ANSWER
12 of 12

Jennifer - I think it is a good thing that a client explains an absence - and that you are handling it appropriately. You want to maintain a working relationship but you do not want to appear unfeeling.

Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
12 of 12

Thanks Joan.  

Community Guru
Wendy C Member Since: Aug 24, 2015
12 of 12

Jennifer,  I've been faced with similar situations with long term clients and have found your response(s) to be the most effective way of handling it. 

 

1. The person trusts and likes you enough to be a long term client > expertize alone does not make for long term relationships.  So it is natural for them to be open ...

2. Handling these conversations as you are not only keeps the discussion brief - it precludes any client 'second thoughts, embarrassment, or recriminations' down the road.

 

You've been understanding yet noncommittal > that's a win win.

 

Adding - i think Sergio nailed it -

Active Member
Jennifer D. D Member Since: Dec 2, 2017
12 of 12

Thanks, Wendy! Yes, I've had some clients with repeat business over nearly two years. It makes sense they would begin to trust me in this way. Nothing is offensive, so I'll not worry about it so much.  

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