Difficult People Are…Difficult
At some point in our lives we have all had to deal with difficult people. That person who makes you want to scream, maybe say some not so nice words, or maybe go retreat into a cave for the rest of the day. You may have one in your workplace or in your family right now. We often feel like there is no good way to interact with this person because no matter what we try, we are left feeling frustrated.
What makes it so hard to get along with this person? We may ask ourselves this time and time again. The truth is we may never know the answer to that question. So instead of dwelling on what we don’t know, here are some tips to try to handle the difficult person a little better.
Stay calm. No matter what the person has said to you, maintain your composure. If you start to feel angry or upset, take a deep breath and count to ten in your head before responding. If you are still upset, take a time out and revisit the issue at a later time.
Pick your battles. Decide what is important and worth “fighting for.” This allows you to avoid unnecessary problems and altercations. Not all difficult people we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. When someone’s presence in your life is very temporary, such as a rude customer, a confrontation probably isn’t worth the effort or beneficial.
Be Proactive, not Reactive. When you feel offended by someone’s words or actions, come up with different ways of viewing the situation before reacting. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.
Turn the focus back on the behavior. A common pattern with difficult people is that they like to place attention on you to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. If you react by being on the defensive, you simply fall into the trap of being scrutinized, thereby giving the aggressor more power while she or he picks on you with impunity. A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the difficult person’s behavior.
Use Humor. Humor can disarm difficult people and allow certain things to roll off your back more easily when used properly. It can also be a good ice breaker for tense situations with difficult people. It should be used with caution in certain situations like serious work meetings.
Separate the person from the issue. Establish yourself as a strong problem solver. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue, and be soft on the person and firm on the issue by using assertive communication.
Confront and set boundaries. When you must deal with difficult people on a regular basis, eventually some boundaries may have to be set. This can be wide range of possibilities from telling people you will not allow them to speak to you a certain way, to eventually having to remove difficult people from your life if they are not receptive to your needs and willing to be in your life in a healthy way.