10 Simple Tips For Dealing With Difficult People


Does dealing with difficult people stress you out? If so, then you may benefit by learning some appropriate interpersonal communication strategies.

The world is full of difficult people who can make your life miserable if you let them. Difficult people come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. They can be demanding and exhausting causing a great deal of distress for anyone with whom they come in contact. Interacting and dealing with these people can be a major cause of lowered productivity, efficiency, creativity and morale in a workplace.

Remember that old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well that can certainly apply when dealing with difficult individuals. Instead, you have to learn to change your language and communication approaches to overcome or get around their difficult behaviours.

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Interpersonal conflict in the workplace can be quite common, and can also be healthy if handled in the right way. However, a lot of people avoid dealing with difficult people because they don’t feel they have the power to do anything about the situation, don’t have the skills to resolve difficult interactions, or fear potential consequences.

The following tips are some emotional intelligence and communication options that I have found to be quite helpful when dealing with difficult people in any situation.

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1. Change Your Behaviour: Attempting to control other people’s behavior usually doesn’t work. It is usually more effective if you change your behaviour in relation to them. Try to refocus your energy on experimenting with how to find a more productive means of interacting with them.
2. Listen with Empathy: Listening actively with empathy can definitely help to gain more understanding and ultimately more trust. If they feel they can trust you, there is a greater chance that you will be able to deal more successfully with them in future encounters.
3. Feel their Pain: Elicit and acknowledge the other person’s feelings in the situation of conflict. Remember, they likely are protecting themselves by this behaviour which is the result of some previous painful experience.
4. Challenge their Perceptions: Try to have a discussion of each other’s perceptions of the situation and then you can look for opportunities to alter those perceptions.
5. Reconcile their Interests: Focus on each person’s needs, desires, concerns, and fears. Reconciling interests rather than positions can help you work toward a possible resolution.
6. Focus on the Problem, Not the Person: Work hard to understand what the actual problem is and then try to generate possibilities for resolving it. Try not to make assumptions about their behavior. Instead, be respectful and empathetic as you listen carefully to the problem.
7. Reduce Reactivity: When faced with a difficult person we often react quickly. Instead, take the time to think and focused on identifying the real needs and interests of the other person as well as yourself. Take a deep breath and count to ten before engaging. This does not make the problem go away, however it will increase the oxygen levels of your brain which increases rational thought….your ability to problem solve effectively.
8. Use Conflict as a Resource: Conflict can be a first step in improving your communication skills, in solving a problem, and even in building trust and cooperation. Avoiding conflict can be much more destructive in the workplace as it can possibly escalate into something bigger, so better to face it and deal with it appropriately in a timely manner.
9. Practice Direct Communication: Try to use “I” statements and be clear about points of agreement. Use appropriate body language to show support and attention. Ask powerful problem-solving questions.
10. Create a Future Focus: Don’t promote your ideas but engage in a collaborative conflict resolution conversation. This requires that you practice active listening and show respect to the other person’s ideas, concerns, and approaches….even if they are being difficult.[/message][su_spacer]
Listening to and showing respect for the people you work can greatly increase the happiness factor in your workplace. It is a good idea to focus on creating a fear-free, honest, open, down-to-earth work environment that fosters creativity, productivity, and engagement. Try to see reality clearly, but choose to address it positively. Espouse a positive attitude that allows you to perceive opportunities, not obstacles. Lead with values, optimism, and fairness. Always employ honest, open, clear, and impactful communication strategies.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I able to resolve conflict with difficult people?” Emotionally and socially intelligent people have learned to improve and exercise their ability to influence others in appropriate, beneficial ways.

Always remember, difficult people have built their particular “armour” of behaviour due to some past experience that you likely know nothing about. Most of them are fearful of losing control of a situation that may cause the experience to be repeated for them. In addition, many are not good at problem solving and this can be frustrating and difficult to deal with as well. The better you are at listening actively, showing support, encouragement and empathy, the better chance you will have of gaining their trust and working with them to resolve the conflict or problem you both face.

Finally, sometimes, no matter how hard you try to work with a difficult person, you may not “win”. Remember, it is not “about you”, it is about them and you can only try to help them, they may not want to be helped and you cannot make people do things they do not want to do! So just listen well, be patient and try your best!

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