Clarity 101: Teach Your Clients How to Treat You - Christine Kane

There I was. Visiting my web designer’s office.

At that moment, he was overwhelmed and angry. He complained that clients were calling on weekends and late at night.  No one was honoring his schedule.

I shared a fundamental truth that has served me (and my clients) immensely. It is this:

You teach people how to treat you.

His eyes lit up. He couldn’t believe it was that simple. And the more we talked, the more excited he got. (I refrained from calling him Grasshopper.)

So, what does it mean?

It means that it’s up to you to allow or not allow certain treatment.  It also means that you have to get clear about how you want to be treated.  It means that you have to take responsibility for writing your own Owner’s Manual, and hold yourself accountable for living by it.

In other words?

Stop blaming your clients (or anyone!) for not knowing your rules! Especially if you never enforce them yourself!

Here are five steps that will help you teach your clients how to treat you:

1 – Get Clear About What’s Not Working.

This is an easy place to start.  Write down what’s NOT working with your clients or your team or even with YOU.  You’ll probably have some obvious beginning points.  Here are a few examples:

– Clients calling at all hours of the night.

– Not adding on the extra hours for all the time I’m answering client emails.

– Flying coach when I travel.

– Wasting time listening to team or clients gossip or complain.

2 – Turn Each Item Into a Standard.

Go through each item and turn it around. Make it a new standard. Create a “company policy.”

When you first got started in your business, it may have been fine to answer a few calls after hours. Hey, no big deal. You only had one or two clients. And you were excited to have them!

The problem is that, as you grew, you forgot to go back and create some standards or boundaries.  And you can no longer handle the chaos.

So, if you don’t want clients to call you at midnight, then what time do you stop taking calls?   If you don’t want to fly coach, then can you make it a company standard that you always fly first class?

3 – Share.

Share your new standards with your clients or team. Make sure you do this from a centered proactive place.  Not when you’re in a highly charged situation.

One reason people stink at teaching people how to treat them is that they wait until they’re triggered before they attempt to set boundaries.   At that point, you’re not teaching people how to treat you. You’re probably blaming them and making yourself the victim.

4 – Enforce.

We are often the biggest problems in our own businesses.

It’s not our clients. It’s not our team.  It’s us.

So, this means that you have to be the one to stick by your boundaries, policies, and standards. And this is where it gets tricky.  It’s SO easy to let one thing slip and then end up back in your old habits again!

It’s helpful to post a list of your new policies or standards by your desk as a reminder!

Also, remember that you must include yourself in your equation. If you’ve told your clients that you don’t take business calls on weekends, then don’t make business calls on weekends.

5 – Be On the Lookout.

From now on, be on the look out for symptoms of your own lack of clarity.

And remember: Where there is stress, there is a lack of a standard.

Whenever something overwhelms you, or a client situation drains you or smacks you out of the blue, it’s not a bad thing.   It’s simply a chance to ask, “Where is there a lack of a standard? How do I need to deal with this in my policies and procedures?”

In other words, you’re always going to be in discovery mode. This is exciting!


BONUS TIP:  Get a Mentor

This article might not be popular among your clients or friends who would prefer that you aren’t so clear.  That’s because we’re taught to “be nice” more than we are taught to “be big.”

So, you must find people who can model this behavior for you, who encourage you to succeed, and who offer a different perspective on happiness than just “be nice.”  Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable to your intentions and goals.  Get a coach. Be in a Mastermind. Get support as you Uplevel!

What d’ya think?  Are you good at teaching people how to treat you?  Got any great lessons to share?  Share your thoughts below…




  • Juliette Esper

    I think my worst enemy is being too nice (apart from the fact that I am too cheap). I manage websites, do graphic design and marketing for small businesses, my business is 2 years old and I have 3 on-going clients and there were more that came and went after a few months. So now l have a client who can ring me at 10pm and send angry text “ordering” me to pick up or call them back asap over something small and insignificant. Another one used to allow everyone in the or company simply pick up and ring me for something that would be about using computers not even related to my services. Until I freaked. They still call me, but at least they ask if I am free, but the business owner insists to ring me at 8pm, when I am trying to unwind with my family ( and a glass of wine), as she “only has head space to think in the evening”…The third one rings me on the days of the week that I never work for him and asks me- any activity on the website? So teaching them is hard enough, but it seems to be a necessary at this stage. Step two- raising prices 🙂

  • kad kahwin cantik

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m
    not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to
    say great blog!

  • Jonas Ezeanya

    It’s really a BIG issue when clients call late. Setting boundaries and seeing them through is a must if you care to have your own life to live (asides work).

  • Suzie Cheel

    Like Katrina said this is clarity for life as well as business and wonderful steps to follow for any part of our life. If we are not clear ie we think they can read our mind and understand what is going on. confusion sets in on both sides 🙂

  • Heather Cottrell

    Great points Christine! The point about stress being an indicator of lack of standards is an eye-opener.

    I still have much room for improvement, but one policy I put in place a few months ago has been successful. Every Thursday around 6pm, I set my out-of-office responder which details my office hours (Mon-Thurs), that I look forward to being in touch Monday, and how to schedule a breakthrough session via my website.

    Now I’m relaxed on Fridays with my family, rather than checking my phone every 5 minutes. And my clients have been trained – they don’t email me on weekends, and if they do they say “I know you won’t see this until Monday…”

    Using simple technology can really help enforce your boundaries.

  • Alice Osborn

    Hi Christine,
    Great reminder about setting and keeping boundaries. I’m not quite there. From the start of my writing/editing business, clients know I can’t be reached, nor can I meet them from 6-8:30pm every night since that’s the dinner/put the kids to bed hour. I still take and make calls on Saturday since that’s when many writers are available, but I’ve drawn the line on Sundays–I don’t turn my phone on most of the day. I keep telling myself that if I miss a call on a Sat or Sun it’s OK and I won’t lose the business, but a part of me thinks it will. But now I will think twice about jumping when a client says “jump” and hold strong!


  • Helena Kuttner-Giasson

    Christine, you ALWAYS amaze me with your clarity….if I had the dime to buy your uplevel kit when you had your black friday deal I would have….I am at the second lowest point…the first being a chapter 7 10 years ago…sigh…it really re-defined me….I look forward to when I can “afford” your product…wish I had $ for self-tutorial….always halfway there…all of my love for spreading good karma…HKG

  • Stacey Broder

    Hey Christine, I thought I was “too small” for a company policy because its only me but you know what? I think it is good to have in place not only for others but to remind myself not to cave on my standards as well! I’m going to put that on the to-do list!

  • Rachel Claret

    Hi Christine… I keep reading your stuff (because it’s so good!) But not taking much action because I know that I am not willing to create a business right now. (Can. Don’t want to.) But…. I am putting up with stuff from my family that is stressing my boundaries big time! Time to set some Household Standards! Woot! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Roxane Lessa


    I grew up watching my mother being taken advantage of my father, her clients when she was in business as a decorator. She always over extended herself, and let people dictate to her. I learned NOT to be that way, but even so, I find myself wanting to be nice, instead of firm in my standards. Thanks for this great article!

  • Susheel

    Yes, it is definitely the way it is. We are responsible for how others treat us. Such as simple truth really, but quite difficult to grasp. Particularly so – as you point it out – because of our up-bringing with ‘be-nice’ coaching instead of ‘be-yourself’ one.

    Thanks for sharing and reminding.

  • Miranda

    Christine, this principle (which I got from you) has shaped my business for some time now, and it works wonders.

    The first time I ever invoked it, I was terrified. A new client I was really excited about called with a new project, and a deadline that wasn’t impossible – just really unpleasant. It would have required me to pull a couple of very late nights, possibly an all-nighter, and I’d just vowed to myself I wouldn’t do that anymore. He said the deadline was non-negotiable. And I knew my new standard was non-negotiable.

    So I took a deep breath and said, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t do turnaround times that short – I’m sure you understand I’m just not willing to sacrifice quality for speed. I’ll be happy to refer you to someone else.” In my head, I was SO UPSET. Here was this new client I really really wanted, and I was TELLING HIM NO.

    So guess what? He got the deadline extended by a month. I did the work, he loved it, and now he’s a “regular.”

    So preach it, Christine. Setting standards – and enforcing them – makes your working life infinitely better!

  • Maria

    The point about being proactive when sharing boundaries, I think is key, and we can expand it in many ways. We don´t like to say no. What works for me is being proactive when someone asks for work to be done. Before they even have a chance, I propose my own deadline. Then you don´t need to say “No, I cannot have it ready on that date”. It also sends the message about boundaries.

    • Christine Kane

      Maria – Proposing deadlines, and times to talk and being proactive really sets the leadership tone in every area of your life. Many people just hope others will make those decisions for them– and of course, they end up being resentful and don’t know why! Thanks!

  • Maggie Reyes


    Were you in my house this morning reading my mind? I needed clarity about something and was deeply pondering, what are my boundaries about this? I love #5 – whenever I feel overwhelm it’s an opportunity to pause and ponder – and determine where my personal boundaries are and what new standard I want to set.

    I love today’s article, but I also love the picture in today’s newsletter – my two coaching heroes together. I could not possibly thank you enough for introducing me to Brooke’s work. I am now a certified coach via Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School THANKS TO YOU!

    Christine, thanks for modeling both the mindsets and the strategies to live a fully uplevelled life.

    • Christine Kane

      You are most welcome, Maggie! (Brooke and I talked about how much we have loved working with you, too!)

  • Kristina

    I love how all of these things can be demonstrated in life in general, not just business. Not setting boundaries is probably one of the biggest issues in personal relationships, and what you lay out here is the perfect way to start fixing those too!

    • Christine Kane

      Kristina – True that. This is really a life lesson – not just a business lesson. People who aren’t clear in their personal life often have the same issues in their business. I began learning this level of clarity when I was working with my first life coach – and I was so surprised to see how practical it could be, as opposed to just thinking it was all some spiritual mystery that should work itself out on its own!