Difficult People: Dealing with Difficult People 101
"An overburdened overstretched
executive is the best executive, because he or she doesn’t have the time
to meddle, to deal in trivia, to bother people." Jack Welch
Dealing with difficult people
can make your life and your job miserable. Beyond a point, you cannot
control difficult people. You can only control how you react to them. If
these difficult people consistently anger or intimidate you, or simply
rattle your cage, they ultimately control you. In dealing with difficult
people, it begs us to ask the question, "Might I be a difficult
person?!" We can all possess difficult people traits, but what about
those individuals who are this way all the time?
3 Tips to Remember When Dealing
with Difficult People
1) First learn and understand
their behavior patterns. When are these people most difficult? What
types of behavior makes them difficult people? Are they difficult only
with you or with others as well?
2) Don’t argue with overly
aggressive or excessively difficult people. These individuals often have
a desire for dissension and thrive on chaos. By arguing and wanting to
"win" it only adds fuel to the fire.
3) Don’t take their behavior
personally. Often, they are impossible to be around because of something
going on with them.
5 Common Types of Difficult
Research shows these difficult people often have an excessive need to be
liked and want sympathy. By complaining and being negative, they think
they’ll gain attention. These difficult people gain attention but not in
a positive way. It pays to be tactfully direct with the negativist. For
example, saying to them, "I understand this is something you want to
talk about, and at the same time I want to make sure I get back to
performing my work." Dealing with difficult people this way will usually
cause them to move on to someone else; a more "captive audience" who
they think will listen to their excessive whining.
Another key phrase is to say,
"Pat, I want to bring something to your attention, and you may not even
be aware of it. When you come in to work first thing in the morning
complaining to the other staff about our new policy, it’s beginning to
look like a lot of negativity. I just wanted to mention it because you
may not be aware of how you’re coming across." If you think they’re
already aware of it, explain it to them anyway. Dealing with difficult
people requires diplomacy and tact.
Know-it-All: Listen and know
what drives them. When dealing with a know-it-all like this, ask
yourself if they seem to have an excessive need for control. Or, do they
seem insecure, but want to appear to have all the facts on just about
everything? Maybe these difficult people are threatened by you. First,
let the know-it-all vent within reason. Often, once they’ve let out all
their "hot air," then they’ll be more likely to listen to you. If not,
and they start talking over you, it may be necessary to say, "So and so,
I really have listened to everything you have to say about
such-and-such, and if you’d give me just a moment, I can help you as far
as….." Be direct, yet polite and tactful.
Exploder: When dealing with
difficult people such as the exploder proceed with caution. Wait until
they’re finished "erupting" and have "cooled their jets." You may be
better off not saying much at all. Approach them again when they are in
a good mood. If they are never in a good mood, approach them when they
are in a better mood.
Sniper: Dealing with difficult
people who stealthily throw little digs your way are tricky contenders.
After they toss innuendos in a sometimes sarcastic tone and you show
that you’re hurt, they accuse you of having "no sense of humor."
In this case, consider ignoring
them altogether. In the future they’ll be less likely to throw in little
digs because they won’t get the reaction they’re looking for from you.
As Zig Ziglar once said, "No one can get your goat if they don’t know
where it’s tied up."
Gossip: These difficult people
either are bored, don’t have enough to occupy their time, or simply like
to make others look bad and themselves look good. Gossips don’t realize
that when they’re gossiping about everyone else, that people are
silently wondering, "I wonder what she/he says about me when I’m not
around?!" Sometimes gossips "gossip" as a distraction and to
procrastinate important tasks.
Often what they’re gossiping
about doesn’t even affect them. Next time this happens, listen intently,
then politely say, "And how does this affect you?" They’ll get the
point. Be very careful, however, with your tone of voice. You do not
want to come across at all as sarcastic. Besides, the latin root of
"sarcasm" is "sarco" meaning tearing of the flesh!
Difficult People = Different
It’s been said that difficult
people are often "different" people. Often a person appears difficult
because they are so different from us. Dealing with difficult people
isn’t easy. It takes practice to learn how to deal with them
If you are forced to interact
with certain difficult people at times consider the following: keep the
conversation light. Talk about "news, weather, and sports" and nothing
else. Don’t let them press those buttons!
By Colleen Kettenhofen
Kettenhofen is a motivational speaker, workplace expert, & co-author of
"The Masters of Success," as featured on the Today Show, along with Ken
Blanchard and Jack Canfield.
Topics: leadership, management, difficult people, presentation skills.
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