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How to Deal with Difficult People

How to Deal with Difficult People

You know the type. It’s the co-worker who seems like she’s out to get you. Or maybe it’s the family member who is just impossible to get along with.

In figuring out how to deal with difficult people in your life, you need to make subtle changes to your thought patterns and incorporate a plan for action. While you can’t completely eliminate all difficult people from your life, you can minimize the impact they have. By incorporating these tips, you can really improve your chances of having a good encounter with an otherwise difficult person.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

The first thing you need to do in dealing with difficult people is incorporate a change in your thinking.

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Doing this can be tough because many of us feel angry ourselves when someone directs hurtful words at us. But, it’s not about you. It’s about them and their reality. You can’t change their thinking, but you can change yours. People often say things when they’re angry that they don’t really mean and you might just happen to be in the right place at the wrong time – and you get the brunt of their anger or outbursts. Let it roll off if you can.

Breathe and Stay Calm

When you’re confronted with someone who might be angry or sullen, one of the best things you can do is don’t contribute to the other person’s anger by escalating it with your own. Step back for a moment. Remember the number 10: count to 10 and take 10 deep breaths. Then address the situation. You can manage a difficult encounter much more effectively in a calm state of mind. Furthermore, if the other person sees you panicking or otherwise reacting to their words or actions, it can cause the entire situation to get out of control.

Understand and Communicate

Often, difficult people just want to be heard. Let them have their say and then respond with empathy. Use phrases like, “I am sorry you feel that way,” or “I can understand your situation and I sympathize.” The idea is just to listen. By doing so, you can open the doors of trust and communication. In effect, you enable yourself to look at the issue through their eyes and change your point of view.

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Separate the Person From Their Issues

Sometimes when we have to cope with people who seem impossible, it’s important to remember that they are not their issues. People have issues, but people themselves are not issues. Difficult people have mothers and fathers and friends who have liked or even loved them for who they are. Separating the two can help you to focus on the issue at hand and not on the person him or herself.

The second step in handling challenging people is making a plan of action for yourself.

Display Confidence But Not Rudeness

If you’re at work and your coworker is challenging your point of view, be ready with concrete evidence to support your perspective. If she questions your reasons for changing a policy, tell her your main reasons for doing so. But don’t ramble on. Get straight to the point so that your coworker doesn’t have time to pick through what you’ve said and conjure up even more reasons to challenge you.

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Use “I” Statements

Just because you deal with people who are difficult to manage, doesn’t mean they can walk all over you. State your opinion and feelings, but do it in a way that doesn’t put the other person on the defense. Use statements like, “I feel bad when you talk to me that way,” or “I don’t understand why our finances have to be so difficult.”  Be sure to start each statement with “I,” then your feelings, followed by either what the other person is doing or what the situation actually is.

Go On the Offense

You might feel like defending yourself when a difficult person challenges you. Instead of going on the defense, try the offense. When you get a question like, “Why are you designing the presentation like that?” you can respond with, “What would be your approach?  Why would you do it differently?” Then, hear them out and work to a compromise.

Choose Your Battles

Sometimes those impossible people in our lives know just how to push our buttons. They might purposely say something because they know it will get to you. A question like “Why did you wear that?” can easily make your blood boil. But, ask yourself if it’s worth the ensuing argument. Does it really matter? This person will tire of trying to get you aroused once they realize they can’t get to you.

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Enlist a Neutral Party

Sometimes, even if we’ve tried all these tactics, a situation cannot resolve itself. You can enlist a neutral third person into the conversation. He or she can listen to both sides and help each person gain a new perspective and help to mediate. This can be another coworker, your boss, or even a counselor.

Some Final Thoughts

It takes a little time and patience to change your thinking and develop a plan of action to help you deal with challenging people. Just remember, most difficult people have their own thoughts and problems and while they may be projecting them on to you, you don’t have to be a victim. Change your mindset, implement a plan and make difficult people become manageable.

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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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