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How to deal with difficult people


How to deal with difficult people

By Robert J. DeBry and Associates | Posted - Mar. 24, 2017 at 3:02 p.m.

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Life would be pretty great if we lived in a world where everyone agreed with one another. Such a world doesn't exist, though, and unfortunately, you're likely to eventually be faced with someone so difficult, you sincerely believe he or she delights in making your blood boil.

Instead of giving into that rage, back up and reflect on whether you might not be the difficult person in the equation. After all, interactions go both ways. What could you change about your behavior that might reduce the number of confrontations you have on a daily basis? What strategies might you employ that could prevent the escalation that inevitably happens when you're faced with someone whom you struggle to get along with? Here are some best practices suggestions to get you started.

Control your reactions

“You must change how you react to people before you can change how you interact with them,” Rick Kirschner, N.D., co-author of "Dealing with People You Can’t Stand," told WebMD.

If the first thing you do when faced with a tense situation is jump to blaming, confrontation or avoidance, you've already put the other person on the defensive. It isn't always easy, but if you can take a moment to breathe before you speak, you might avoid an emotional outburst you would instantly regret.

Assess your assumptions

Recognize how you might be contributing to the problem. Does this difficult person know that how she or he acts or speaks bothers you? Are you misinterpreting his or her actions? Consider whether you might need to pluck the proverbial beam from your eye before you focus on the mote in another's. Maybe it is your assumptions that are all wrong.

Listen with an open mind

Tempting as it may be to shut difficult people down before they hit their stride, there can be value in hearing them out. Kevin Kruse, a contributor, adds that you may want "to just tune these people out, but this rarely stops them. If anything, they’ll talk and argue more forcefully because they’ll think nobody cares about them. The best thing to do is to use good, normal active listening techniques, as you would for anyone else."

Feel free to continue disagreeing with them if their reasons and evidence fail to persuade you, but wouldn't you appreciate it if they listened to your arguments as thoughtfully as you listen to theirs?

Consider possible approaches

If the difficult person in question is a coffee barista whom you assume to be more concerned about her social media account than the people she waits on, having an in-depth heart-to-heart likely isn't your best strategy for working out your differences. However, this could be the perfect solution for a close friend or colleague. When it's someone you see less frequently, consider how else you might approach the problem.

Be direct, but not abrupt

Nothing takes a mild disagreement to an all-out argument faster than an abrupt tone and words you haven't considered carefully before speaking aloud. On the other side, beating the bush of whatever it is that is bothering you won't solve any problems either. Using a kind, clear tone like the one you'd like to be used in return will help you discover your communication breakdown more quickly. With everything you say, think about how you would feel if the same words and voice were directed at you.

Pick your battles

Some arguments aren't worth the breath it takes to discuss them. For instance, if you know a co-worker hates it when you tap your pen on your desk, figure out a different mindless action to occupy your fingers and save yourself the grief of another petty fight. Or if a team member makes a suggestion that you disagree with about how to present a project, consider whether that suggestion really matters to the project as a whole. Just because you would make a different stylistic choice doesn't mean his or her choice is wrong.

Robert J. DeBry


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