As some of you may know, I am a Credit Counsellor and have been with this same non-profit agency for 28 years come May 27th. I know, a long time as the moss on my feet can tell you. Over the years, I have seen many different people with a wide array of debt, not only whom they owe but the amounts. With each client, I have found that I can group them into certain categories that most people do not want to be part of but, in all cases, I must put my best face forward. Of course, I deal with many people who are very sweet, good-natured and smell nice but, for various reasons, have found themselves in a bad way financially. I will not talk about the people who fall into this category...that would be too easy. I have composed a top 10 list of people who fall into the category of ick, blechhh, and general, "OMG, they really do exist!" model. Here are my top 10... er.. 3 the rest will come in the next few weeks:)
1. Smelly Clients/Smelly and Miserable Clients- Smells you say? Yes and they can vary from, too much polish sausage or curry, need to take a bath because the flies are dying, to the dreaded poo poo or pee pee smell. I wish I could open up a window but, alas, that gift is not in the cards. Most people are polite, if eye tearing, nose dropping off face, smelly, but you can get the person who is as rude as their smell. I had one client who smelled so bad, another counsellor dry heaved and had to run to the washroom. This smelly gal didn't think of wearing a bra even though her boobs were very, very uneven in a strange, hypnotic kind of way. Her 300 lb plus size still did not reveal anything jolly and her hair was so greasy, you could use it to grease a skillet. Yes, she was married (to a sweet, very thin, non smelly man) and she took care of all the finances. What does one do when one has a smelly client?
A.-Get the hose and soap
B.-Suggest they need to up their toiletries to include deodorant and shampoo
C.-Break the glass and gasp for oxygen
D.-Grin and bare it.
Guess what folks? Yes, it's A...no, no, no It's D because, regardless how they smell, it is not your position to suggest anything and, unless you believe they could harm themselves or others, you must put on a brave face, smile and dream of Vick's Vapour rub or a clothes pin. If they are just moody, like, not having their first cup of coffee and are the Incredible Hulk, don't engage in the negativity, just carry on in the best professional manner you can muster. Once they leave, then you can run outside and breathe the fresh air before you go back in, grab the air freshener and de-smell your office.
2. Pee Boys and Girls-You think I am just talking about small babies who decide to dump their load while you are discussing the Visa and Mastercard debt the parents owe but, think again. I had a lovely man in my office, who looked like a worn out skinny Santa who forgot to get the ash out of his ZZ Top beard, who just owed too much and needed to look at bankruptcy. As our session was nearing the end, I thought I could smell the odor of ..pee and, I was right. When he got out of the chair, the wet, dark spot confirmed that he, indeed, peed in my chair. Looking at his jeans was only further confirmation. He did not exhibit any dementia but, the following day, when he came back to see the Bankruptcy Administrator, she forgot to pull the pee chair and, yes, he peed again in her chair. 2 weeks later, he came by, sat in her chair and did not pee! Unfortunately, he must have peed while walking here because he left his mark on her chair. In case you're counting, dry chairs-0 pee chairs-3. Oh, and yes, he was wearing the same clothes but, this time, the jeans were ripped so one could see his tighty whities..probably yellowy-grey. So, what does one do...
A.- Give him a bag of Depends?
B.- Place plastic down when he comes in?
C.- Spend the money on easy wipe chairs?
D.- Grin and Bare it but contact an agency that helps at risk individuals?
For people who have peed, like this man I saw, they obviously have health issues so one needs to have compassion (plus some handy wipes and Febreeze). You might still need a clothespin for your nose, but you need to know the other services out in your community that might aid in a client's welfare. In this case, I called "Gatekeepers" which helps at risk individuals (mainly seniors) find the right support services. By the way, we know someone who is coming in to clean the chairs.
3. Showing their Scars/Colostomy Bags- You think I'm kidding, don't you? Over the years I have found out that people come into our office very nervous and leave much relieved (see above) because we put their mind at ease and don't judge. Many elderly people are in debt when their spouse dies and the income decreases by half (unless the debt is in both names or there is an estate, the person left is not responsible for their partner's debt in Ontario, Canada). Many Elderly are ill with various health issues which often leads to surgery. Now, maybe I have a special gift but many love showing me their surgery scars and some come close to that nether region of YIKES! Once they calm down and we discuss their debt and I learn more about the reasons for the debt issues, they feel so close and warm to me that they must think it's an honour to show me their scar(s) like I am Richard Dryfuss on the Boat with Robert Shaw comparing shark bites. They feel so happy and dooey-eyed as they talk about the length of intestines that had to be cut away or the gall stones that were taken out that they fail to notice the various shades of green on my face. As for the colostomy bags..yup, I have had clients show me this as well and, in one instance, it filled up while he showed me...I am truly blessed. so what does one do?
A.- Shriek in Terror as if one just saw Godzilla?
B.-Throw up on their shoes?
C.-Tickle the scar?
D.-Politely try and stop them before they show their scar/colostomy bag
E.-Grin, make nice and bare it.
Of course I tickle them! I love being up close and personal....ok did you throw up? No, It's D and E sillies. I have now learned when they are ready to show me I try to, very politely, dissuade them from showing me. I have learned not to outright say "No" because I actually hurt the feelings of one lady so I quickly use the art of deflection and they stop grabbing their shirt ready to throw it up (or unzip their pants) to listen to another wonderful tidbit I will give to them about their debt. If I can't stop them in time, Yup, show compassion and ask how they are feeling since the operation and say they are ready to go. Once they leave, go on Pinterest to look up cute animals to get the image out of your head.
So this is part one of my 3 part series on how to deal with difficult people. I thought I would get the smelly people out of the way first:)