Learning to Deal With Difficult
people can make your work day less enjoyable. With the right strategies,
you can learn to deal with them effectively.
If you have to work
with difficult people every day, you probably dread going to work each
morning. What's more, you might get so stressed that you can't concentrate
on the job.
Have you ever wondered
why some people are difficult to work with?
in a difficult manner because they have learned that doing so keeps others
off balance and incapable of effective action. Worst of all, they appear
immune to all the usual methods of communication and persuasion designed
to convince or help them change their ways," says Robert M. Bramson, Ph.D.,
author of coping With Difficult People.
Bramson offers the
following strategies for coping with such people.
Avoid these "don'ts"
when dealing with difficult people:
- Don't take difficult
people's behavior personally. Their troublesome behavior is habitual
and affects most people with whom they come in contact.
- Don't fight back
or try to beat them at their own games. They have been practicing their
skills for a lifetime, and you're an amateur.
- Don't try to appease
them. Difficult people have an insatiable appetite for more.
- Don't try to change
them. You can only change your responses to their behavior.
Here's how you can
cope effectively with four common types of difficult people.
Stand up to them,
but don't fight. Overly aggressive people expect others to either run
away from them or react with rage. Your goal is simply to assertively
express your own views, not try to win a battle of right and wrong.
First, wait for the
person to run out of some steam. Then call the person by name and assert
your own opinions with confidence.
Difficult people are
experts at taking potshots and making sneak attacks in subtle ways, such
as humorous put-downs, sarcastic tones of voice, disapproving looks and
You may feel uncomfortable
replying to them because you don't like confrontation. This, however,
allows snipers to get away with their covert hostility.
Respond to a sniper
with a question. "That sounds like you're making fun of me. Are you?"
A sniper usually replies to such accusations with denial, "I'm only joking."
covert attacks will reduce the chance for similar attacks in the future.
These are fearful
people who have little faith in themselves and others because they believe
in a hostile world. Their constant discouragement and complaining can
bring everyone to despair.
"Don't try to argue
these difficult people out of their negativity. Instead, respond with
your own optimistic expectations," says Bramson.
People who ignore
you, give you sullen looks, and/or respond to every question with either
"I don't know" or silence are difficult because they're timid. Silent
people get away with not talking because most people are uncomfortable
with silence and are too quick to fill in the gaps. Ask them questions
that can't be answered with just a "yes" or "no," such as, "Why is it
uncomfortable for you to answer my questions?"
Then wait at least
one full minute before you say anything. This long silence may make them
uncomfortable enough to say something. If they do start talking, listen
Dealing with difficult
people takes practice, so don't get discouraged.
Although these strategies
won't change the difficult people, they will break their ability to interfere
with your effectiveness," says Bramson. "Most important, you'll feel more
confident and you'll start to enjoy your workdays."
What about you?
Are you stressed by an angry or difficult person?
- Have you left a good job because your
life was made miserable by a cranky boss?
- Do you avoid your most valuable customer
because he or she has angry outbursts?
- Are you afraid to visit your Aunt Helen
because she tries to make you feel guilty with her critical remarks?
- Do angry people or difficult people
provoke you to snap back with sarcasm, or your own angry remarks?
Do you want to wake up every morning afraid of facing the angry people in your world?
Of course not!
You're not alone. Most people don't want to deal with fearful or unpleasant situations. And... very few people know
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"Dealing with difficult people can seem like the last thing you’d ever want to do in your life…and yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.
It is possible to create a positive change in your relationship with another person, whether difficult or not.
"The main problem is that the difficult person is behaving in some kind of socially inappropriate way – harassing, bullying, controlling, backstabbing, gossiping, complaining, being rude, unmotivated, uncooperative, negative, etc, etc."
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spoke with Robert M. Bramson Ph.D., author of Coping With Difficult People,
Dell, 2001, $12.95. *Published in VITALITY Magazine, October 2001. Reprinted
with permission. Visit their
web at www.vitality.com For more articleslike this one, visit www.ConfidenceCenter.com/articles.htm