How to Deal with Difficult People, Part II
Last week I reminded you that we all do what we do and say what we say, for a reason. As people, we’re purpose driven and our goals guide our behavior. There are three common goals that consciously and unconsciously guide our behavior: to get something done; to get something done perfectly right; to get along with and get appreciated by others.
Now what happens when you want to get something done and you don’t think the person in charge of getting it done is going to get it done? You become difficult. What happens when you focus not simply on getting the job done but on getting it done perfectly and you doubt the other person will do it perfectly? You become difficult. And what happens when you want to have people like and appreciate you and you believe they don’t? You become difficult!
People become difficult for the same reasons we do. So, how can you manage a person who thinks and feels they’re not having their needs met? Here are seven tips for reassuring a difficult person that you understand them.
- Use “I” statements — express what you think and feel in a way that doesn’t attack the other person. Don’t clobber them with “you this” and “you that” because they will only become defensive.
- Listen. Listening is the single greatest gift we can give another person — corny AND true! Give your undivided attention because you can’t successfully multi-task when talking with a person who’s in the throes of difficult behavior.
- Make sure your non-verbal communication telegraphs that you are open and responsive to the other person. Don’t appear intimidated or defensive. Upwards of 80% of what people respond to in a conversation is the non-verbal, i.e. tone of voice, look in eye, body posture.
- Remember that what is most obvious is not always most true. Ask questions like “What’s going on?” and “Am I misreading or misunderstanding the situation?” Practice the skill of Perception Checking.
- Help the other person make sense of what it is they really want and need. How often do we say things and we’re not even sure what it is we mean or think or want? People often become difficult when their own thinking is muddled.
- Assume nothing. Not everyone is like you. You know this from past experiences, so just remember it!
- Draw boundaries. We train people how to treat us. While you can be understanding of difficult behavior and can strive to manage a difficult situation, you don’t have to tolerate chronic rudeness or emotional blackmail.
Pick just one of these tips and practice it throughout the coming week. You will feel the difference!
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