How to respond to a disappointed client

3 min readMay 22, 2023

Your client has shared with you that they feel disappointed and hearing this might have left you upset. It’s normal and almost impossible when you do your best and you care for a client to not hear this as blame or criticism.

Our self talk is also not the kindest in these situations so repetitive thoughts are played in our heads without even noticing. What we notice though is our need to excuse ourselves and explain what we did and why we did it with hopes that it will clarify the situation.

It doesn’t.

Explaining and excusing creates a dynamic of guilt where you might feel like you have to defend yourself. With this defense, the gates to connection close completely while all energy goes to counterattack. You could hear yourself saying “…but I needed this from you and I didn’t receive it on time”. Or you shut down completely and you can’t say a word.

Regardless of your defence method, all energy goes everywhere else but not towards finding the resolution your business needs.

So here are three simple indicators that you can keep as guides that will lead you to a resolution and towards strengthening your relationship with your client:

1. Do not use the word “I” until you truly understand what your client needs. Disappointment is a feeling and people tend to make us responsible for their feelings so they will probably say they feel like this because of you or/and your service.

This is why it is important to question what the client needs until they express “I feel disappointed because I need/I value… “ .

2. Now that you know what they need, you may bring the “I”. Express openly what it is that you need.

This is often ignored because most of us think that we provide a service and we get paid for it so our only role is to do our job and get paid. However, a business relationship is still a relationship between two human beings. Both equally important. Both with their own thoughts and feelings. Suppressing and hiding yours will not be in anyone’s service. There are healthy and professional ways to express what you need from the collaboration.

3. Establish concrete actions by making clear requests.

Clear requests are based on action words. “Listening” or “understanding” are not actions. Avoid the activities that take place in the mind and replace them with verbs that express physical movement. This can be simply writing an email or making a call.

And remember, many times we enter the automatic conditioned mode almost instantly and, before we know it, we find ourselves in a full argument. When you hear something from your client that you would prefer to not hear, take a breath and make conscious space for the conversation that the situation requires.

“Before I rise to my defense

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

Words are windows, or they are walls.

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love shine through me.

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.”

Ruth Bebermeyer