Q: I often find myself flustered when clients challenge me or are critical of me. I never seem to know what to say right at that moment. Any suggestions?
A: There are ways to deliver profoundly effective, on-the-spot responses during difficult encounters—ways that can mobilize you and restore the receptive, flexible, and empathically attuned you. I've chosen a small sample of a long list of examples that colleagues and trainees have shared with me over the years, including my own personal favorites.
You'll notice that many of the suggestions call attention to nonverbal tips and scripts. I call those "The Way to Say It," because it takes so much more than clever insights and keen conceptualizations to make a difference during challenging moments with clients. It takes awareness of how you communicate your message, the desire to explore your stumbles and falls, and the ability to attend to your inner core and mend the tattered places within you to make sense of your "hot buttons."
What's Come Over Me?
For example, when responding to a (possibly narcissistic) client who's in his angry/critical mode, the first step is to identify what part of you is getting in your way. If you're a person who has problems with anger and confrontation because of unsettled experiences from your own early years, you may find yourself shriveling in the face of anger. You press yourself deeply into the back of your chair,…