In our society, contractors are often regarded as somewhere between a criminal and a crayfish.

So, it was with surprise that I read a recent article on The New York Times’ Web site depicting them as actual human beings. The piece discussed the problem of irrational, abusive homeowners, and how many contractors were deeply affected by what one called, “clients from the dark side.”

The article made a lot of good points and marked a refreshing change from the unrelenting bad publicity “innocent” homeowners give “unscrupulous” contractors.

But then came the comments from readers.

While a few of them were complimentary toward their contractors, the vast majority of letters were sarcastic, venom-filled attacks that not only insulted the contractors’ workmanship, but often made derogatory remarks on how a given professional looked or spoke. Many of these readers displayed the exact traits that the article was discussing, and their level of meanness made me sad.

I’m not here to discuss whether those feelings are justified, but rather what should be done about them.

There is a schism in this country between homeowners and contractors, and unfortunately, the onus of solving it lies with the latter; after all, a contractor is dependent on his or her customers for a living. So how can the issue be addressed?

A huge part of the problem, it seems to me, comes from a built-in prejudice many consumers feel toward any type of contractor – a result of prior bad experiences or things they’ve heard.

One way to help mitigate that is to set up a respectful relationship with constant, clear communication right from the start. In one of the few comments I thought was actually helpful, a reader said, “A construction contract is a type of vow to share responsibility for an unusually dynamic singular event.”

That’s a great way of putting it. Explaining early-on to the homeowner exactly what you will do to ensure a good relationship, and exactly what you expect from them, will help set the tone for a strong and prosperous marriage.

But that is one small aspect of a large topic. Apparently, there’s a book on the subject written by former contractor David Lupberger and Bill Still. It’s called, “Managing the Emotional Homeowner: The Remodeler’s Guide to Happy Customers.”

In this down market, when every lead counts, creating happy customers can make a huge difference.

If you are interested, the article can be found here