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.
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.
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.
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.
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.