This Skill Can Make or Break Your NCS Business (And It’s Probably Not What You Think)

I hear it over and over again- frustration with clients not listening to advice, irritation when our contracts are not followed to the T, difficulty maintaining important boundaries, and conflicting expectations, sometimes before the NCS is even hired. It’s true that some clients are challenging, sometimes differences are insurmountable and it’s ultimately not a good fit. The harder truth? When things aren’t going smoothly on a regular basis, the problem may be you. If so, you’re not alone.

Developing effective communication tools is probably not something you learned when you trained to become a NCS. It’s a truly undervalued life skill and strengthening it can make all the difference when it comes to long-term growth in this field. The good news is, effective communication gets easier each time you practice…and you will get a lot of practice.

Whether you are starting out in this field or recognizing some recurring issues, challenges that arise provide a golden opportunity to reflect on your personal boundaries and what the language in your contract means to you. This can change over time depending on your past experiences, your life circumstances, and the client/position. Most contracts contain clauses which are meant to be open to discussion, so make sure to have the discussion when things come up. Your contract is a point of reference and will never cover every possibility. Do you have flexibility and do you want to be flexible? Great. Let the client know to what extent. Is there something you can’t accommodate? Be straightforward about that. They don’t need to know why.

Questions inevitably arise. This helps us recognize the limitations of contracts and when clarifying conversations and respectful boundary setting come into play. 

You will probably find that things like this come up throughout your career and your ability to communicate well with different personalities will be more of an asset to you than specific language in a contract will be. Your contract can be a great place to start but it will never replace open communication. 

When your client makes a request, a prompt response is important. However, responding in the moment can result in a reactive response instead of an intentional one. Instead, let your client know that you will get back to them the next night, or even take a couple days for more significant changes. 

Keep in mind, if something is bothering you, a good amount of frustration can be avoided by pausing to check your assumptions. Try viewing the situation from your client’s perspective and start a conversation by giving them the benefit of the doubt. They don’t necessarily know how things work in this niche industry of ours. They may have never hired someone like you before. They may not have the exact understanding of your contract terms that you do and they don’t know what changes do or do not work for you until they ask. 

We all have those clients who will push boundaries, take advantage, or lack the wherewithal to return your respectful communication. Even in this case, you can determine the client’s motivations and how to best communicate with them through respectful and clear interactions. This can only be muddied by a reactive response that assumes bad intentions from the start.

We may think that others are able to receive information in the manner that we provide it. This is often not the case. If you get the sense that your client is not understanding you, try switching up how or when information is shared. Are they preoccupied? Do they forget things unless they’re written down? Were they tired or stressed? Was it second hand information from a partner or staff member? Timing is everything. Maybe this person prefers email, voicemail, text, or face to face conversations.  It could be a combination. You may be surprised how much easier conversations go when you make an effort to adjust to another communication style.

If you find that someone is not receiving or respecting what you’ve communicated, setting firmer boundaries could be the next step. For example, instead of, “Typically, I’m not able to make changes in the schedule, but I have some flexibility this week and can come another day,” you might need to simply state, “I’m not able to make any adjustments to the schedule at this time. I’ve included our agreement about schedule changes below.”

You can build open communication, trust, and confidence in your ability to navigate more complex conversations in the future. 

  1. Get clear on your boundaries and contract terms. If you’re not clear on this, how can you expect your client to be?
  2. Don’t feel pressure to respond in the moment. Take a day or two to think it over.
  3. Assume good intentions. Your communication won’t be effective if you’re reactive.
  4. Consider altering your communication style to fit your client’s personality. They may not be able to receive information the same way you do.
  5. Establish firmer boundaries as needed. If you’ve set realistic expectations along the way and communicated clearly and your communication is not being received, you may need to avoid gray areas and stick to hard limits for clarity.
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