Making a Client Feel Heard
Everybody wants to be heard and understood, even more so when it comes to a client of an attorney. This seems to be an easy situation to have a handle on, but there are times when an attorney cannot fully understand or relate to a client because the attorney has never experienced such situations before. This is where a great deal of miscommunication can occur. When coming to see an attorney, people are often facing a very difficult time in life, a time when they may need an ear to simply listen and sympathize. We listen and we do our best to have empathy for our clients.
Family law is all about communication. In many cases, clients wind up in an attorney’s office because effective communication is not part of the clients own personal relationships and day to day lifestyle. Attorneys must create an attorney-client relationship, and it is the attorney’s job to assist and create effective communication with clients. The only way for an attorney to affectively facilitate communication is when a client provides an accurate depiction of what is going on in the client’s day to day life and their relationships.
Clients will often fail to tell the whole story, or even tell the wrong story. This can be caused by the client’s ego, traumas, or the client being truly unaware of what is going on in their personal relationships. Clients can fail to include important information that could be relevant and helpful in moving a case forward.
Client-centered communication is a process that is used to make a client feel heard and understood by helping the client become a helper in the legal process instead of being seen as a burden to the process. This is a two-fold communication style that includes validating a client’s experience and then helping the client rationalize and make sense of the experiences they endure. Most often, the client is at a very tough spot in life and may not be seeing relationships, conversations, and day to day events clearly. It is the attorney’s responsibility to actively listen to the client and account for what they have been experiencing.
It is an attorney’s job to gather important information from their clients. This is not just for building a case but also to understand the client’s communication style.
A client’s difficulty does not come from who they are as a person, but often comes from how they are treated in their personal relationships. If a client is allowed to treat their spouse like a push-over, the client is likely to try that with an attorney and other relationships as that is what they are accustomed to. If a client has a history of spoiling their children, the client will likely often give an attorney the answers that they think the attorney wants rather than the answers the attorney needs. If a client has allowed the poor behavior of their spouse or significant other, the client will likely make excuses for the other party throughout the whole legal process. Lastly, if a client has been allowed to act a certain way to their spouse or significant other through the relationship, the client will likely make excuses for themselves throughout the legal process. Any of these behaviors can inhibit the progress in the legal process and can be an indicator of a bigger issue which may bring forth the client’s role in the issue at hand.
Issues can arise when clients believe that their story is too complicated to share. This is when the client becomes difficult. There are situations when an attorney can see that a client is holding back and an experienced attorney should intervene and validate a client’s feelings. This will promote good client-centered communication and help the progression of the case. Although, this is different than allowing a client to feel that their wrong actions are justified. It is the attorney’s responsibility to make a client feel heard, while also shedding light to areas the client may have went wrong. Even when a client’s approach is wrong, a client still needs to know that their version of the story matters.
A client should dig deep down within to truly place a finger on, and understand what led them to an attorney’s firm. An attorney who better understands their client’s communication style and reasoning can better serve and transform their client, not only in the aspect of attorney-client relationship, but also in the client’s daily relationships.
The work that an attorney puts into assisting their client with the discovery of their own communication style will greatly help the results of the attorney-client relationship, as well as the case itself. Helping a client validate and rationalize their experiences throughout the legal process can help to transform and ease the difficult behaviors the client may inhabit.
For more information, please see article “Validation + Rationalization = Client-Centered Communication” by Gregory Gilston on www.familylawyermagazine.com
The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties as well as four mid-Michigan counties Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Wixom; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Linden; Fenton; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; South Lyon; New Hudson; Howell; Clare; Gladwin; Houghton Lake; Higgins Lake; and many more Michigan communities. And soon to be opening another office in Dadeville, Alabama.