Everyone comes up against difficult people, demanding situations, and disappointing circumstances in every area of life; work, marriage, and friendship. We can't avoid it. But we can learn some few basic skills that can make working with them less stressful.
Dealing with difficult people takes some understanding on our part and a willingness to assume some risk as well.
It takes time to train difficult people that their difficult behavior may work with everyone else, but not with you. However, with a few basic strategies and easy-to –use principles, your effort will be rewarded with better relationships, a reputation that says you are not easily aroused.
Keep in mind the following points:
• The difficult people behavior is habitual and affects most people with whom they come in contact. So “Do not take their behavior personally”
• Anger is sometimes a valid response.
• Recognize that a criticism of your work is not a criticism of you, so don’t let it damage your self-esteem
• It is useless to ask the difficult person to stop doing what they’re doing publicly, but you can employ more confrontational tactics.
• Learn to take care of yourself as you don’t want to get sucked into their behaviors.
• You can't change difficult people, but you can learn to deal with them.
The idea in dealing with difficult people is to first look at your role in the situation and then to try the following strategies:
1) When discussing problems with difficult people, keep it short and direct. It minimizes a stressful situation for both of you. Don’t argue with them as it’s a waste of time. When you do speak, be sure your tone is non-emotional and non-confrontational.
2) Generally speaking, it is good to practice starting conversations that create goodwill. Ask people about the things they like – family, hobbies, TV programs and work in general. This is a very good idea to disarm them, get them talking and make them feel more comfortable.
If you are dealing with silent people who ignore you and seek safety by refusing to respond, then there should be another response. Silent people get away with not talking because most people are uncomfortable with silence
. Get them to talk by asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no, then wait at least one full minute and don’t try to fill the space with words to ease your own discomfort.
3) "Oftentimes, indirect language works because it focuses on the work rather than the person. Instead of saying, 'You need to get it to me,' you can say, “Reports must be prepared” That way, people are less likely to feel that they are under attack.
4) Learn to admit when you’re wrong. Make apologies to all you have harmed. It can be as simple as saying "I'm sorry for what I've done”, “I made a mistake”, or “I could be wrong”. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
5) Confront problems professionally and with confidence. As a matter of fact, when you get into a tough point, don't raise your voice, as dealing with difficult people in a calm and permissive way will most likely keep the emotional level and force the person to listen to you.
6) Keep in mind that “how you communicate with others has much to do with how people respond to you”. Difficult people are difficult because their desires are being met through their difficult behavior. Difficult people are often fully aware they are being difficult. They continue because there is a reward in the end result.
You have to analyze what you have been doing in the past that rewards or encourage the difficult person's behavior. Then, stop rewarding them.
7) Knowledge is power and it's to our advantage to develop and practice effective conflict management practices that facilitate discussion. Read related books, attend workshops, listen to tapes or CDs. Learn how to establish an immediate rapport through a smile or eye contact. Develop as many skills as you can. This way you gain credibility, and your efforts will soften those opposing you. Effective communication is critical.
8) Build your self-confidence. Self-confident people are not as concerned with what other people think about them. They will not instinctively let the difficult person have their way in hopes of being liked. Additionally, people with high self-esteem are less likely to respond to the difficult person by being a difficult person.
If the difficult person tries to verbally bully you, just say, “I don't allow people to treat me this way." Then slowly and calmly walk away. So be confident and look your bully in the eye. Don't forget to breathe (most people tend to forget to breathe when under stress
). Speak in a calm and clear voice while asserting yourself by naming the behavior you don't like and state what is expected instead.
Sometimes you may find yourself forced to take unpredictable actions to get their attention: drop a book, stand up, firmly call them by name, and get them to sit down. Be ready for friendly overtures as soon as they view you as worthy of respect.
9) If you can't see the problem from the difficult person's point of view, ask them. While this may not work with some, it's usually a good idea in the case of closer relationships. The trick is, in arguments, you need to have patience with the other person, and self-restraint with yourself.
Some difficult people are experts at taking potshots and making sneak attacks in subtle indirect ways. Respond to those snipers with a question like “Are you're making fun of me?” Although a sniper usually replies to such question with denial, but it will reduce the chance for similar attacks in the future.
10) Remain open to other people's opinions, viewpoints, and ideas. Share yours, as well. Find something to appreciate and comment on in a clever way. Too often, we focus on what people are doing wrong. Try to catch them doing something right and comment on it. It makes people feel less under attack.
Dealing with difficult people takes persistence and practice, so don't get discouraged. Although these strategies won't change the difficult people, they will break their ability to interfere with your daily activities. “Most important, you'll feel more confident and you'll start to enjoy your life.”
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