Whether it’s your co-worker, your neighbor or your child, sometimes people can be overwhelmingly difficult.  If you have had to deal with someone who puts up tons of resistance, you know that things can quickly escalate out of control.

As a coach who specializes in turning around conflict situations, there are commonalities that that are present in all types of conflict—no matter what the situation.

So what can you do about it?  How can you break through and dissolve the resistance that is building in your relationship?

You want to get your point across, but don’t want to fuel the fire.  Even if you know what to do, in a heated moment you must know what you are up against.  You must think strategically if you want to get ahead and make the best out of your particular situation.  A big part of that process is to stop, think and do the unexpected.

Here are some easy and effective tips to turn around any situation with a difficult person:

1.  Validate.

You would be surprised what this simple action will do.  One common reason people put up resistance is because they do not feel heard or understood.  Validating and listening to them to make them feel significant is the fastest way to move forward.

2.  Think like them.

Just imagine you are in their shoes for one moment.  What do they want?  If you were in their situation, what would it feel like?  Just this one tip will get you far because most people are seeing one point of view: theirs.  Great problem-solvers can change perspective.

3.  Don’t resist.

What you resist, persists.  People tend to resist you more when you resist them.  Spend a little extra time getting to know their point of view and ask them questions to understand their point of view (and nod your head, yes, as if you understand).

4. When listening, slightly tilt your head.

We communicate not only through words but with our body language.  When you tilt your head slightly, people feel heard.  Also, this one trick will get you to actually listen more intently.

5. Know your outcome.

Before communicating, stop and think about how you want to feel as a result (relief).  Also, know how you want to make them feel (validated).   Finally, you must be flexible (just like you want them to be, too).

6.  Be open to the bigger lesson.

Most of the time, there is a much bigger life lesson to be learned aside from the situation where someone is being difficult.  It could be showing you how you relate to people in general, how you’re creating conflict, or what the conflict triggers in you.  Be open to the lesson that is bigger than the situation itself.

7.   Use strategic influence.

Find out who influences the difficult person and see if they can help you relate.  Think outside the box and know you have many routes that lead to where you want to go.

8.  Create a bond.

Sometimes you can change the subject and agree on something totally different than the matter at hand in order to create a bond with the person.  Even a negative bond might do the trick, but be careful not to create a habit of negative bonding.

9.  Downplay the situation.

Don’t feed negativity.  Big responses and long email replies can escalate a difficult situation.  Don’t call out the person’s behavior with a grand reply but instead calmly listen with care.  The person won’t feel defensive but will feel understood.

10.  Interrupt the pattern.

People often behave like robots.  We get triggered all the time and are often reacting to a story we loop in our heads. When dealing with someone difficult, interrupt the pattern by asking a question completely off-topic. This will offset their mental story, and you can approach the situation more proactively, rather than defensively.

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Featured photo credit: Concept of difficult choices in businessvia Shutterstock

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