When we were kids, we knew that someone didn’t care for us if they put out their foot and tripped us while we were walking. It is a game that children do to each other which can be frustrating and hurtful. This game playing continues into adulthood and in our workplaces, taking a slightly different format. There are always people on our teams and individuals who we collaborate with who we may not get along. They challenge our decisions and actions and even might coerce us into accepting their way of doing things. After we give in because we are too tired of conflict, we are disappointed in our reactions. But it doesn’t have to be this way as leaders have a choice in how to face difficult people.
One of my most requested training presentations is entitled: “Dealing With Difficult People”. The attendees can’t wait to sink their teeth into empowering themselves to face down these individuals. We always end up with great discussions and idea sharing. We begin our session with looking at why difficult people trip us up.
Seven Myths and Ways To Face Difficult People:
1. We Can Wish Them Away
There is an old adage that if we wish hard enough, the difficult people in our jobs and lives will disappear. Well, just the opposite is true. We may believe we can “will” them away, but difficult people are here to stay. And just when one leaves, another arrives. So the first step in facing difficult people is recognizing that they are and will always be part of our work environments.
2. They Have Control Over Us
This myth is one of the craziest ones in dealing with difficult people. We oftentimes feel they have power over us. ABSOLUTELY NOT! They can only control us if we allow them to.
- We need to speak up and share our concerns in an assertive and respectful way
- We can’t just ignore the behavior if it is affecting our relationship and performance
- We need to describe the behavior in non-judgmental terms
- We can talk to a co-worker, colleague, boss or friend and ask how they might handle the situation
3. We Are The Only Ones
Contrary to what we may be feeling, take comfort in knowing that all of us have difficult people to deal with. But what is fascinating is that what seems like difficult behavior for one person may not be difficult for another. Have you ever noticed that certain team members really get on your nerves but don’t seem to bother others? That’s because each of us reacts differently to the same behaviors or attitudes. Each of us brings our own unique imprint of what we think is difficult behavior.
4. We Are Not Contributing
Do you think that you are not impacting how the difficult person is acting towards you? No behavior takes place in a vacuum. In some way we might be rewarding the behavior. Maybe the individual is a whiner and we give in because we can’t put up with the whining. So think about how you may be reinforcing a difficult person’s actions.
5. Our Success Is Measured by How They React
Our success needs to be measured by how we deal with the difficult person, not by how they react. It is not our job to make a negative person not negative. We can’t force an aggressive person to be less aggressive. We just need to stand up for our rights.
6. We Have No Skills To Effectively Deal With Them
The best way to deal with a difficult person is to use assertive communication that is:
7. We May Actually Be The Difficult Person
This is the realization that some of us may come to see. Yes, some of us may actually be the difficult person. Keep that in mind.
What strategies have you used to lead when dealing with difficult people?
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