How to Deal with Difficult People

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there are challenging personality types that make our lives harder:

  • The Tank: Confrontational and angry.
  • The Sniper: Makes you look foolish.
  • The Grenade: Explodes into fury out of nowhere.
  • The Know-It-All: Authoritative and things must be their way.
  • The Whiner: Points out everything wrong in vague terms.

You might now be thinking of a person to put one of these labels on.

“Encounters with rude, insulting, and demeaning people undermine others’ performance — including their decision-making skills, productivity, and creativity.”
Ouch.

I wanted to put together a few guidelines I use that help me diffuse situations from handling our customer relations and also from managing our team of over 108 employees.

1. Listen and understand the end goal

Listening combined with intent to understand what is being sought, gives you the prime opportunity to end the interaction while achieving your goals.

listened past all the yelling to delineate how he could fix the situation while achieving his goal

2. Focus on what you can do something about
You may not be able to avoid what difficult people have to say but you have control over what you do, and more importantly, what you ask.

Asking questions puts you in the driver seat to let them air what they have to say while guiding them to what you can do anything about.

Difficult people, especially what Dr. Brinkman and Dr. Kirschner referred to as “whiners”, require a lot of directed questioning in order to come to understand their desires and what actions are available to you.

On the flip side, during this intense questioning, you may end up uncovering something about yourself you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

3. Get clear between a difficult message and a difficult person

You will always come across challenging people but by listening to them, asking questions, understanding their goal and focusing your actions, you can put yourself in the best position to succeed in getting what we want.

It won’t always happen in the most pleasant way, but keeping these guidelines in mind helped us handle challenging moments both with our users and within our organization, and hopefully they’ll help you grow, too.

So, don’t freeze and walk away but instead engage head-on with these personalities.

They will push you to innovate, make things better and fill in gaps you didn’t know were there before they arrived.

And I’d say that’s a gift worth getting at the expense of an uncomfortable confrontation, wouldn’t you?

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