There is a several-year-old short comedy video called “The Expert”. You may have seen it before. If not, here’s the link :
It has 28 million views and many positive comments that show it struck a nerve. One of the comments tells a story about a boss being angry at his art department people for bringing him drawings of a Pterodactyl. Because he clearly stated he wanted a photo reference of an animal, why is that so hard? The fact that the animal has been extinct for 65 million years had to be carefully explained to him until he calmed down.
(this GIF is only bitterly relevant if you managed to see the whole 7-minute video).
Sometimes, what the client asks for is not just badly thought out, it’s straight-up Not Even Wrong.
If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, here are a few survival tips:
1) Don’t back down. There is no reality where they will get what they want, so they can either give up and come back or get defrauded by someone. Either way, you did your best.
2) Refocus the conversation on what they need by asking them WHY they want what they want. If you know what they hope to gain, you can defuse the situation by suggesting a route that might actually work.
In both the video and the flying dinosaur example, these two changes in the expert’s behavior could have made all the difference.