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No matter what kind of a consulting practice you have, it’s sometimes necessary to help clients deal emotionally with a business crisis. If you’re a management consultant and you’ve branded yourself well, the clients see you as a trusted confidante and visionary.

The key is to deliver on your image.

Businesspeople profess to be objective and only interested in data and professional services. But in hiring you, they make an emotional decision.

It’s common for traumatized clients to become emotional in their anguish over business headaches, and they need a sounding board.

Types of issues

There are basically two kinds of troubling issues – external marketplace forces or internal problems that impede the control of costs, controls and quality.

If the issues don’t result in poor cash flow – in which case I hope you’re prospecting for other clients – the problems often stem cultural workplace issues or toxic employees.

Ideally, clients would turn to you as a trusted and comfortable sounding board.

It’s these raw emotions that serve as obstacles to clients’ success. They’re angry or fearful, and they need to work through their ordeals. (Actually, when they’re angry they’re fearful – fearful the problem won’t get resolved with good results.)

But with such emotions, they replay the problem over and over in their minds. They’re emotionally drained – worn out and lacking in energy.

Depending on the severity of the issues, you don’t have to respond like a clinical psychologist. Just use a common-sense approach.

But if the issues are serious – issues with which you don’t have adequate experience – refer them to a counselor or therapist.

Three phases

En route to solving such issues, typically, they’ll go through three emotional phases:

  1. Shock and denial (“How can these be happening to me?”)
  2. Anger and depression
  3. Acceptance of the issues leading to solutions

If you’re capable of helping your clients with their situations, the issues are solved in three basic steps:

  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Action

Depending on the severity of the issues, you don’t have to respond like a clinical psychologist. Just use a common-sense approach.


You need to listen with empathy. At the appropriate moment, respond with kindhearted empathy. Chances are the clients are obsessive about the problem. Try to drag out all the negative feelings.

Help the clients become more objective by asking: “How are you feeling today?” or “What are you feeling now?”

If they go on and on for multiple meetings, it’ll be synonymous to a merry-go-round of denial – as in “this can’t be happening to me.” When enough is enough, try to guide them. Pick the right moment, and ask something like: “Is there anything else?”

In most cases, the question will end the pity party, and you can get moving forward to solutions.

Do your best to get the clients to understand the big picture – all what’s associated with the problems. Identify the roots of the issues.

If you don’t understand the extent and origin of the issues, when you and/or the clients try to implement an action plan, all the bases won’t have been covered. The problem will fester and continue to grow like a cancer.


Again, in all discussions, use empathy. Be sure to validate the clients’ feelings with acknowledgement (e.g. “yes, it’s a big problem”). It’s important for clients to get out of the denial phase. It’s equally vital for you to be intuitive.

Such clients think their problems are terminally unique – that no one else has had to face such problems. That’s not true, but don’t make the situation worse by minimizing their feelings.

At the right moment, help them to become hopeful – confident in dealing with the problem. Use phrases such as: “If it were so easy, everyone could deal with this.”

But don’t try to fix them or the problem.


Use your instincts to know when to proceed. Watch for an improvement in their energy, tone of voice or mannerisms.

In making recommendations, be careful. The clients might still be in a fragile state of mind or too sensitive. Use phrases like “you might wish to consider…”

After you and your clients proceed with a course of action, be sure to get closure. Ask the clients how they’re feeling or how do they feel now about the whole experience.

Finally, if your clients don’t thank you for your service, be sure to get your strokes, too. You deserve it.

From the Coach’s Corner, related tips:

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings – How are you faring with your clients? Not sure?

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients – If you’re in professional services or consulting, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.”

“Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.”
-Paul Cezanne


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.