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10 Easy Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

10 Easy Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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