During this time of year, as families gather and relatives spend more time together, there will inevitably be encounters with difficult people. In a recent IMS program, Dr. Rick Brinkman, co-author of the international bestseller, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, provides some sound strategies to help everyone deal with the difficult people in their lives, whether they are at the office or at home.
Dr. Brinkman states you have four choices when dealing with difficult people. You can say and do nothing, which is dangerous since your level of frustration and anxiety will build up over time. You can vote with your feet by realizing that sometimes it is just better to walk away. You can change your attitude about that person by seeing them differently. Or you can change your behavior, which is most often the best choice, but takes more time as you learn the strategies to deal with those difficult people.
I have provided a few of the most common difficult behaviors below along with some effective strategies on how to deal with each of them.
These people are burdened by everything going on in the world. They quickly lose hope of looking for any solutions and overgeneralize their issues and problems as they feel more and more helpless.
What you should do – Make sure to listen attentively for the main points by backtrack what they are saying. Sooner or later, you will need to take control of the conversation by respectfully interrupting and asking questions regarding the specifics of the problem. The goal is to get them to focus on the specifics since they love to deal in generalities. If they don’t want to talk about solutions, at some point, you need to draw the line. In this case, keep repeating the statement, “as I said, if you change your mind and come up with solutions then let me know.”
THINK THEY KNOW IT ALL
These individuals deal in half-truths and loves to exaggerate their supposed expertise. Hungry for attention, they can persuade and mislead an entire group of naïve people. Try not to challenge or confront them aggressively, since that will likely cause them to make even grander claims.
What should you do – Start by giving them attention as you backtrack and clarify their comments. You may also want to acknowledge positive intent even if their content is questionable. Next, clarify specifics by asking them clarifying questions such as, “who specifically” or “when specifically”. When you are finally ready to ‘tell it like it is’ do so using “I” language by saying such as “what I have read…” and so on. Resist the temptation to embarrass them but instead give them a way out.
These people want to please you with compliance patterns ranging from being pleasant to being a pushover. The pleaser does not like conflict and will avoid it at all costs. While they may go along with you on the outside, on the inside they are keeping score of all rude and inconsiderate behavior.
What should you do – They may be going along with you just to get along with you, especially if you are a commanding, critical or self-absorbed person. In this case, acknowledge your part in this creating this behavior. You can also empower them by having them realize that by continuing this behavior, they are creating a false relationship not a real one, and that the things they don’t say create relationship barriers.
These individuals think they know what is best for you. They feel compelled to intervene as they have little confidence in the ability of others to make it happen on their own. If you let them, they will be perfectly happy in managing your life. This behavior is usually the result of loneliness.
What should you do – Make sure to appreciate their intentions since this behavior is usually is driven by a desire to help. You may also try to give them a place to meddle. Identify an issue of lesser importance or an area where they could help. However, you should also have a canned response for them if their behavior does not improve.
A helpful hint to remember when dealing with difficult people is you are dissatisfied with your interactions, go back and imagine doing it with an attitude that you would like to have.
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.