As Paul Simon sang, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. In other words, people look at things differently depending on their perspective.

That’s obvious in politics, where a positive term like investment becomes something negative to someone else. Or where an end of life conversation with your doctor becomes a death panel and educating people about a serious problem like childhood obesity becomes something sinister.

This failure to communicate also happens in relationships. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? The fact is, if you don’t trust someone you are going to be skeptical about their motives. Which brings me to my point.

A friend who works for another PR firm was telling me about a frustrating client that consistently challenged him. The client questioned everything my friend did, demanded constant changes and revisions, and made simple projects difficult because the client was certain that my friend didn’t know what he was doing and that the client could do it better. There are two things happening here that make this relationship complicated. One is that this is a typical example of a high maintenance client. Like in When Harry Met Sally, the worst kind of high maintenance client is one that doesn’t know it is high maintenance. The other thing happening here is a serious lack of trust.

The client hired you because of your expertise but now doubts your judgment. Is this an insecure client or are you not working hard enough to earn their trust? Are you not meeting the client’s expectations or are the client’s expectations not realistic? Perhaps it is a little of both, but is this a problem that can be solved? And are you willing to put in the effort to make it possible?

Effective communication takes patience and trust. Both sides need to be willing to see things from the other’s perspective. Both need to acknowledge that there is a problem and agree to work together to find a solution. Both need to be open to compromise.

Reasonable people can make reasonable decisions when there is a good reason. For my friend, the reason has to start with the fact that this is an important client that the firm wants to keep. For the client, it needs to start with remembering why it hired the PR firm in the first place, because it had the talent, experience and track record to help the client succeed.    

It may be that the firm and the client would be better off parting ways. Some things just are not meant to be. But if the relationship is important enough they will take the necessary steps to cross the bridge dividing them and meet each other half way.

Are you willing to look at things differently, or is the effort not worth the trouble? One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Or as Dylan said, I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours. 

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