They come in many
forms, styles, ages and genders. But everyone at sometime or another deals
with a difficult person. Whether it is the whiner, the exploder, or the
guilt-trip sender, a few basic principles and tools can make working with
them less stressful and more productive and profitable.
are difficult because it is working for them. Their wants, needs and
desires are being met through their difficult behavior. Whether that behavior
is yelling, demeaning comments, a guilt trip, the silent treatment or
taking cheap shots. Difficult people are often fully aware they are being
difficult. They continue because there is a reward in the end result.
cannot make the difficult person not be difficult. Human beings
are funny. They resist our very best efforts to fix them because they
do not think they are broken. The best thing we can do with difficult
people is to train them that while their difficult behavior may work with
everybody else to get them what they want. It does not produce the desired
result in us.
Examine your own
responses to the difficult person and behavior. There is a tried and
true management principle that "what gets rewarded gets repeated". If
you are not communicating effectively with a difficult person, ask yourself
"how am I rewarding the behavior?" If a colleague lays a guilt trip on
you, do you allow it to work? If the answer is yes, it is guaranteed they
will use a guilt trip on you as often as possible.
In the training sessions
and workshops I conduct I am frequently asked, "how can I get my difficult
colleague to stop being difficult?" My response is invariably the same,
The key to communicating
effectively with difficult people lies in analyzing what we have been
doing in the past that rewards or reinforces the difficult person's behavior.
Then, stop rewarding them.
put is best when she admonished us to train other people how to treat
us. Difficult people will continue to push our buttons as long as
we continue to reward them by letting it work.
Do the unexpected.
Because difficult people are so accustomed to their difficult behavior
working, one of the most effective techniques in dealing with them is
to do something different from what they anticipate.
For example, if you
deal with a bully, exploder or yeller, they often expect that you will
have an equally extreme emotional response. Those responses typically
range from yelling back to tears.
Throw them off track.
When they yell, remain calm. Don't forget to breathe (adults tend to forget
to breathe when under stress). Lower your voice and calmly restate your
position, request or idea.
Develop a thicker
skin. In other words, build your self-esteem or self-confidence. Self-confident
people are not as concerned with what other people think about them. They
will not instinctively let the difficult person have their way in hopes
of being liked.
with high self-esteem are less likely to respond to the difficult person
by being a difficult person. There is less of a temptation to make yourself
feel better by trying to make others feel worse.
Get a "wrinkly
brain". Scientists tell us that every time we learn something we develop
a new pathway or "wrinkle" in our brains.
When it comes to difficult
people, there is no better tool than knowledge. Attend workshops, read
books, listen to tapes or CDs. Develop as many skills as you can.
One of the best skills
you can develop are language patterns. Language patterns are templates
or guidelines that can assist you in saying what you need to say, even
when your heart is pounding and your nerves are frayed.
A favorite among my
seminar attendees is the "feel, felt, found" method. This is a great template
for dealing with difficult people who try to foist their opinions on you.
Instead of saying,
"I think you are wrong" (which only breeds defensiveness and often gears
the difficult person up for battle), try responding with:
I understand how you can feel that way. I am sure others have felt
that way too. However, I have found ______.
It takes time to train
difficult people that their difficult behaviour may work with everyone
else, but not with you. However, with a few basic principles and easy-to
-use tools, your effort will be rewarded with better relationships, a
reputation that says you are not easily rattled (read more promotable)
and greater results and respect in the workplace.