I want you to be able to identify difficult people both in your audience and off stage. This is important information to have because those people whether they are in your audience or not, they may become clients of yours at some point. Then, you’ll have this great information to handle them. In fact, you’ll know exactly what to do to manage them and your time.

Recently I had a potential client that told me that I had helped him. A long time ago, I had spent about 45 minutes with him where started asking questions and wanting a lot of free consulting time. So I response and said, well, let’s set up a call together. So we set up a call together. And again, he wanted me to tell him the strategy that he should use when it comes to his book versus speaking and I did. I laid it out for him. I gave him a lot of advice, free advice. But then he kept fishing to meet again and do lunch. At this point, I stopped and said, that really won’t be necessary unless you’re going to hire me as your coach and I also directed him to my programs and let him know what he could pay me for now that I had given him over an hour of my time for free.

Identify People Who Want Stuff for Free

Here’s how you can identify those people who want stuff for free.

  1. They just talk a lot.
  2. They don’t listen. This guy in my story above was just talking, not listening.
  3. They’re all over the place. This guy was all over the place, I was trying to reel him in a little bit.
  4. And then they want more without asking for your pricing

Your job is to not let them hook you to meet in person or do more free work. I usually have a limit. I’ll give them an hour and that’s it. That’s all I can afford. I’ve got a fully booked schedule. So remember, anytime you give someone free time, it’s time taken away from you getting a client or you getting a speaking engagement. So just be very careful. I’m all for giving free time and free advice, just have a limit.

After that he asked me to send him an email with a proposal for my services, he was really just buying time. He had no intention of hiring me and I knew that. So, I just kept the email really short. I didn’t go into any big proposal or anything like that. Sure enough, he wrote me an email that said he was just going to do his book, which was not my advice. I was trying to discourage his focus on his book right now because it has nothing to do with the program he wanted to launch. Speaking is the fastest path to cash, but he showed me that he had no intention of investing in leveraging that path.

It’s impossible to do all things and be all things to all people. You need to start one step at a time.

In addition to or alternatively to the limit of time, you could set a limit on the amount of advice. For example, once you’ve given 3 pieces of advice, you can stop and say, “I can help you more, but you’ll have to book some time and I have another call right now.”

Have you ever had a heckler in any of your audiences?

If you think about the psychology of people, typically a heckler is someone in the audience who wants attention. They’ll speak louder than anybody else, and they will verbally say things out of turn. They aim to grab your attention.

You cannot allow them to take over. Instead, you have to diffuse them.

Everybody looks to you at that moment to have control over the entire audience. Yes. You’re the speaker. You’re the one with the microphone. You’re the one that has to do something and diffuse it for the audience.

Be careful not to call on people to participate who did not volunteer. They may turn out to be a heckler.

Handle Hecklers in Your Audience

Here’s what I do and what I recommend. Give them the attention they want. I stop and I say, “Oh, that sounds great. It sounds like you know a lot about this topic. In a little bit, I’m going to talk more about that. Would it be okay if I called on you then?” And they will say, “Yes.” They got the attention, they got the accolades, you’ve appealed to their ego, and then they’re usually quiet. And then you don’t call on them ever. Clever? And then after the meeting, they will come up to you and say, “Hey, I thought you were going to call me.” Your response, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot. What was it that you wanted to say?”

This has always worked for me in the past, and the heckler seems satisfied and doesn’t interrupt again. I also recommend bringing humor into the moment to help the audience move past this interruption.

Rule of thumb: Acknowledge and diffuse as best you can, if you can diffuse with humor.

Don’t fuel it, AND don’t ignore it!

It’s a no-win situation because you don’t want your audience to come up to you and say that they are sorry that happened to you. I want someone to come up and say, I touched them with my message. Forget that heckler. Who cares? I forgot all about him. Even though you’re handling the heckler well, sometimes the bigger the heckle, the worse the audience will feel for you. Now, I find when I can find humor in it, then the audience doesn’t feel bad for me.

Those Under the Influence of Alcohol
There may be events you speak at where alcohol is served. And it’s unfortunate that some people have no control over the amount that they consume. I was the emcee at my 50th high school reunion. So I was excited, and ready, and everything was cool. When I arrived there was a drunk couple that was there before I arrived. The guy was so loud. And since they were so loud that I didn’t sit anywhere near them. The time for me to get everybody up and get them all excited and welcome everyone.

Typically (in a non-alcohol-related situation) if other people in your audience are talking, you can stop talking and usually, someone will nudge them and get them to be quiet. Of course, I did try that, but that didn’t work because they were oblivious. So, the best way to diffuse somebody who is under the influence of alcohol is to totally ignore them. Do not bring attention to them. Before I said acknowledge and then diffuse. In this case, where alcohol is involved you can just ignore them and simply talk louder than they can talk. And prep for this find someone to intervene for you should you need this. Arrange for this ahead of time if it’s an event that serves alcohol. Have a signal.

Ideally always set it up so you can speak early in the program before people get too inebriated.

The Difficult Client

There could be situations when a client of yours is difficult to deal with. One type that we often run into is the narcissistic personality.

Now, we all need to be a little self-focused and have a “normal level of narcissism” to accomplish our goals. As entrepreneurs, we have to believe in what we’re doing and we have to believe we have a product or a service that’s beneficial to other people and the narcissistic type believes that too. However,

Some characteristics of a narcissistic person are that they can be very charming, they’re very likable, and they’re fun. You’re usually drawn to them. They have magnetic personalities, and they’re very convincing and can feel very compelling. That’s one side of the narcissistic personality where they’re charming and charismatic. They can accomplish big goals but it’s often with a cost. The darker side of a narcissist is that they can be very manipulative and they’re very good at manipulating you in a way that can seem reasonable.

You’ll often find that they are the people in breakout rooms who take all of the time.

If they’re a client, they’re always asking for more, and they’re putting you in awkward situations. They have a high need to be admired, and they’re very self-centered and lack empathy. We all have a degree of narcissism, but narcissistic personality disorder is over and above that. They feel they get ahead by putting you down and/or taking from you in order for them to get ahead. So, there’s no mutual respect. They have an inflated sense of self or grandiosity. They often think they’re the center of the universe, that their needs are most important. They tend to distort reality. Underneath that, they need praise and admiration. Why? Because they’re essentially very insecure people.

There’s often a sense of entitlement. They’ll tend to monopolize a conversation, or a meeting. They’ll tend to monopolize your time. It’s all about their needs. Their needs come first and there is no consideration of your needs.

How do you deal with a client who is a narcissist? Let them feel in control, and appeal to their ego. Start by setting clear boundaries and then you can ask questions. You want them to feel in control. Don’t come head-on to them because you’ll lose and it gets ugly. You do want to set boundaries by redirecting in a gracious way.

Use a Sense of Humor with Narcissists

Humor works as a strategy for a multitude of difficulties. Again, if it’s in the audience, more than taking care of that individual, this helps your audience to feel comfortable. If you make your audience comfortable, they’re going to listen to you as a speaker. If your audience is uncomfortable and you’re not handling the situation well. All of a sudden, they’re tuning themselves out and worried about this awkward situation. So, humor can really go a long way.

Get Help Dealing with Narcissists

If you have a client or you’re in a relationship with someone who is narcissistic, you want a healthy person to bounce things off of because the narcissistic person can make you feel crazy. Ideally, it’s a mental health professional who has skills, strategies and training to best advise you. Narcissists have the ability to make you feel like they’re right and you’re wrong. They’re very intelligent, they’re very smart, and they’ll usually win. If you try to argue with them, they’ll win. They’re very clever. So, you want to have a healthy person to bounce some things off of.

Another key indicator to note is when you first meet a narcissist, they will idolize you. They will say, “You are the best speaker I have ever heard or you’ve got the best whatever service. You’re the best love doctor, teacher, financial planner, etc. I’ve ever met.” They’ll put you on a pedestal. But then watch out because as soon as you don’t meet their need, you flip immediately in their minds. And now you’re in the doghouse because you have not met their need. And you’re left reeling, like, what just happened? They become angry and upset with you. They demean you. They start putting you down. And that’s why you need a healthy person to bounce things off of because they will cause you to feel a little bit crazy. If you end up in a relationship with them, you need professional help or counseling to really pull you through that because it can be really detrimental to your mental health.

Borderline Personalities

People who exhibit borderline personalities are similar to narcissists but they are not typically charming like a narcissist. They have a deep fear of abandonment, so they get clingy. Those are the clients that tend to be really clingy to you. In a dating relationship, they allow themselves sometimes to be mistreated because they don’t want to be abandoned. Where a narcissistic person, is not afraid of abandonment. It’s like, if you don’t meet my needs, oh, well and they will find someone else.

A borderline person will be hyper-focused on you. They’re very intuitive, whereas the narcissist is more cerebral and smarter. The borderline almost has ESP. They’re extremely intuitive. A borderline is very caring and very empathetic. A narcissistic person is not empathetic. A borderline is very sensitive and can be very kind, very compassionate, very loving if their needs are being met and if they think you’re meeting their needs. Also, borderlines tend to have a negative view of themselves, whereas narcissistic people tend to have this very positive view of themselves and think they are the smartest and greatest. The narcissist thinks I’m Mr. Wonderful, and you’re here to meet my needs. The borderline doesn’t have a very good self-esteem sometimes.

Both of them will tend to idolize you. Both of them will tend to put you on a pedestal. And again, as long as they feel you’re meeting their needs, you’re there for them. Everything is copacetic. But as soon as it doesn’t happen and it’ll be the slightest thing, then you’re crap. Then you’re just terrible. And it’s like it flips very quickly sometimes. Both of them tend to distort reality.

They tend to project both positive and negative things onto you that may not be there. And both of them are very difficult to be in a relationship with, whether that’s business or dating, or marriage. So that’s a little bit about the difference between them.

Awareness and Action Are the Keys to Managing Difficult People

This information is geared to help you both on stage and off stage. As you understand the signs of difficult people in the room, you can activate your boundaries and strategies to take care of the entire room and manage the difficult people out of the way.

You’ll have audience members and clients who are difficult and match the above descriptors. Entrepreneurs who are givers need this information to know where they are best giving of their time. And it’s with those who value your time, not with those who drain us. Go where you’re celebrated (authentically) not tolerated.

If you’d like more guidance on how to handle difficult people while on stage (or off), let’s talk. Book a complimentary consultation with me here.