The Blog Library

Bad Client Behavior Explained In Two Images

At the risk of oversimplifying and offending everyone, I’m going to explain the majority of bad client behavior in two graphs.

Think of something that humans vary on.  IQ, natural athletic ability, how hot they like their soup, you name it.  Most of those things are going to fall on what’s called a “normal distribution.”  There’s an average, and the majority of people fall right around average.  There are progressively fewer people as you move out to the extremes.  Few people are the very best, and few people are the very worst – it’s rare to run into them.

Here’s what it looks like:

Pretty straightforward, right?  And it applies to a surprising number of things.  If most people like their food a little bit salty, an extreme few are going to like it with zero salt and an extreme few will prefer tons of salt.  If most of us are average swimmers, then a few of us are Michael Phelps and a few have to wear life jackets just to walk on the beach.

Here’s the problem.  People totally ignore this when they look at the world.

In fact, people see the world more like this:


People like to think that they are an exception.  Different.  Better.   I’m not like most people.

Someone once asked a group of people to rate their driving skills – and 93% rated themselves as better-than-average.  Even though it’s impossible for 93% of people to be better than average (see graph #1).

I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  This has great side effects.  If we all thought we were average and plain-Jane, imagine how unmotivated we’d become to push ourselves to our potential.

But this “I’m better, different, an exception” phenomenon does help explain lots of frustrating client behavior:

  • Clients expecting policies not to apply to them.  (Policies are for average people, remember?)
  • Clients being late to sessions because “something unexpected came up.” (Virtually all of my clients are 10 minutes late to their sessions.  I don’t get mad, but I find it very funny that they think something coming up last-minute is unique or unexpected.)
  • Clients assuming that you’ll give them a discount, because surely doing it just this once won’t hurt your business.

What do we do about this?

When a client gives you a sour face for insisting on one of your policies, I don’t suggest you wave the graphs in their faces and tell them that actually, they’re average like everyone else.  Here’s my formula for success:

Enforce your policies equally for everyone (unless you see a true exception or hardship), but still make all your clients feel that they are the very best.  The top 1%.  Brilliant, rare, wonderful.

Because dangit, our clients are cool.  They let us have the best job in the world.  We should treat them like gold.  They are above average if they sought you out to create beautiful art for them rather than going to a run-and-gun impersonal studio.  Make each of them feel like superstars, and you’ll have a lot fewer problems.

But still enforce your policies.  You have to stay in business to be around to treat them well.


Keep reading:


  1. Lorna on April 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I loved the second graph made me laugh. I was in the exact spot as your me arrow till I scrolled down and then almost wet myself! Totally love this post thank you for your insights. I have a question though. Why do some potential clients post a message me on my facebook asking me for my prices? Why don’t they bother to check out my prices page on my website? Why take the time to post a message instead of looking for themselves? I never do this myself, I always do my research so I am clueless as to why this happens. Maybe others here have had this happen a lot. (I find these clients rarely ever book)

    • Jenika on April 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Haha, I wouldn’t read too much into your clients emailing instead of checking your website. To quote Seth Godin, “Everyone is lazy sometimes.” 🙂 I have noticed that when I visit some people’s facebook pages, the links to some websites are not obvious. You might double check and make sure that yours is prominent. Other than that….. *sigh* it’s part of how things go.

      • Lorna on April 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

        I shall just add a prices button that links to that page on my site. Hope that will help them. Yes I totally understand, I love your blog and I find it so useful, My hubby had just started his degree in Psychology and I am fascinated by it. Love the way you write, jargon free so we can all gettit! Thank you and I hope to come to an e-seminar of two of yours in the future.

Leave a Comment