We have all faced them. Difficult People. Whether they are co-workers, bosses, or clients, our life would not be complete unless we have had to navigate these types of folks at one time or another. The trick is not to let drag us down to their level but rather what separates us from having a complete meltdown when they arrive on the scene is how we handle them. Our ability to successfully and tactfully deal with difficult people can affect our job, our advancement, and even our health.
Sometimes, people are difficult simply because of who they are. It might have nothing at all to do with you. So try not to take it personally — even if they direct their venom at you. That person might be the way they communicate with everyone – so don’t feel special. Taking such comments personally only makes dealing with that person harder for you.
Ask questions. Avoid Statements
Difficult people often have strong opinions. Sometimes they’re right, many times they can be very wrong. And when they’re wrong, a helpful way to point this out is to ask questions rather than to make statements. If you can ask questions you might be able to help the person recognize the issues in his or her own and avoid a confrontation.
Have Evidence in Writing
Have you ever been in a meeting trying to make your point and you are getting resistance from someone? If so, this is where you want to have written documentation that supports your claims comes in handy. You will have far more credibility if you can back it up in writing.
Clear Communication and Understanding
Effective communication is always important, but never more so than when you are dealing with a difficult person. Many times, an argument will develop because of communication breakdowns. When someone is talking, listen carefully and make sure you understand that person’s point before you respond. Likewise, make sure the other person understands your own point.
Consider avoiding statements that start out with “you”. Such as “You never sent me that email”. Before you accuse someone, try to defuse the situation by using statements that take down the temperature of the conversation such as “I never received that email, could you send it again?” This way doesn’t sound you making an accusation rather just trying to avoid a “He/she said” argument and just moving to resolution of the problem.
Separate The Issues From The Person
Consider the issue first and take out the personal attacks. If you have a concern, make clear that the concern lies with the idea – NOT the person. Of course, the person may still take offense – you can’t control this – but it make be less likely to escalate. This works in reverse as well – don’t be offended when a “difficult” person doesn’t like your ideas as well. Be objective and realize where this criticism is coming from – separate your personal feelings from the idea.
Be Self-Confident Rather Than Rude!
This same approach can help you in dealing with difficult people. You need not be a doormat, but you also need not be as rude as the other person is being. Simply stick to your facts and your arguments and remain professional. You can be honest without being harsh. Consider your tone of voice – and even consider it when you are communicating via email, text – your “voice” can be heard in these forms of communication as well.
Play A Little Defense
Difficult people like to take the offensive and this is part of their “charm” – they want to put you on your heels. So you need to play a little defense. Turn the tables on them. If someone says something “can’t” be done or they offer only negative feedback – ask them what can be done and how they can help. Don’t let them get off the hook with sarcastic responses. Put them on their heels a bit and ask what specifically they can offer to move the project forward.
Difficult people can be lessons for us. If that happens to you, let the person know you appreciate it. The most important thing to do in this situation is be sincere. Don’t be offer a fake “Thank you” be honest in your gratitude for them. Sometimes difficult people are just being difficult because no one has appreciated them in the past – and sometimes you could be the one who turns them around. It doesn’t always happen – but there is always a chance you could be the one to turn difficult into not so bad.
Questions To Ask Your Team:
Q1: How do you define a “difficult” person?
Q2: Does the statement “I’m sorry you feel that way” make matters better or worse?
Q3: How do difficult people make us better as leaders?
Q4: Are there just some difficult people/personalities we should cut from our lives?
Q5: How would you turn around a difficult person?
Q6: How do you turn the tables on difficult people?
Q7: Have you ever expressed gratitude for the difficult people in your life? How so?