In the past week, I had three clients use the word ‘f#*k’ in conversation. When clients swear around you, receive it as a compliment. Why, you ask? Think about it this way, who do you swear around? Is it your boss? Probably not. Your significant other? Maybe a bit. How about your closest colleagues and friends? More likely. In other words, do you swear around people you trust? Hell, yes!

So how do you know if you can even get to this level of trust with a client? Here are some tips:

  • Use your head as some clients are obviously off limits. It’s never going to happen.
  • Do they wear a black shirt and a white collar?
  • Do they spend more than 80% of their time around children?
  • Do they have a PhD?
  • Do they knit for a hobby?

Look for clues that they may be receptive…

  • Our client, the International Association of Fire Fighters, was a no-brainer; it was just a matter of time. One easy clue is that they drive trucks, big trucks.
  • I think our fleet services client said the building was so cool “he liked it more than tits.” This even took me off guard. They, too, drive big trucks.
  • Don’t rule out the client or consultant that you never would expect. Try not to respond with a look of shock or the opportunity will never present itself again.
  • Go first. I don’t swear a lot, but when I do, it’s usually for a reason, be it out of frustration or telling an animated story. When the time is right, slip one in, and maybe, consider apologizing to keep an out-option open. Explain you’re just upset and you will get a one-time pass if it doesn’t go well.
  • Don’t start off like a drunken sailor. Ease into it. Depending on the person it could take weeks or months before you’re cursing it up.
  • Never swear about someone.

Even if you never swear, getting your clients to swear is a good thing. Some people like to swear, it’s in their nature and encouraging them to be themselves helps everyone get along better. Just try to prevent them from swearing at you.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative