A few years ago we had a client who was experiencing a lot of stress, being expressed as (and created by) a chronic string of “emergencies.” In our opinion as their tech partner, the majority of these incidents were more like upgrade requests or they were accidents of the client’s making, not ours.

Because this particular client was our largest and most profitable client, we initially followed their lead and responded back in “drop everything,” emergency fashion, interrupting the work of other clients. The stress was being circulated and amplified among us.

Until we got fed up.

Being irritated was a good thing! It was our consciousness wake up call. It told us not that something was “wrong” per se but that something could be improved. It made no sense to get mad at them — after all, we had been a willing co-conspirator in the ongoing process! So once “awakened” to the dysfunctionality, we looked at the moving parts of the situation.

Then we decided to implement our policy (in the contract but rarely applied) to charge double for unscheduled work. Let it be said, there were nagging voices inside saying, “Don’t do that! They will get mad! They are the biggest client! If they get mad, then what?” Those are the voices of a powerless inner kid.

Kids are not that competent at business, though they do tend to show up for work day after day.

The actual result?

Like magic, the drive-by, urgent requests diminished immediately. This client also happens to be cost-conscious. (We knew that; it informed part of our trouble-shooting strategy.) Instead of thinking of them as “cheapos,” we used that trait to guide us in creating a happier and more productive relationship.

Now they have a conscious filter to apply before sending over a “gotta have it now” request. We are in agreement most of the time regarding what rises to the level of a true emergency! That would not have happened had we not taken responsibility for our own key role in the relationship. We brought our “adult energy” forward and talked the kid fears down from the ledge.

After all, it’s the client’s job to ask for what they want. It’s the vendor’s job to explain what they can do, how, and when. Together, solutions are negotiated, as peers, not as servant and master. We’ve learned not to be afraid of our clients. We’ve learned that they want what we want — a smoother, less stressful, and more brilliant collaboration!

Either party can initiate the consciousness upgrade. (I do it frequently with home repair contractors who seem to get bullied to lower their prices a lot.) So feel free to try it whether you are the client or the vendor. Do you have examples? I love collecting stories where short terms solutions solve long term problems, where immature or “kid energy” gets soothed by grownup or “adult” energy in business environments.