Dealing with Difficult People

Nearly everyone is difficult sometimes.  I have days when I do not handle things as well as I wish I had.

For me, dealing with people when they are being difficult takes a little patience.  I wish that I could say that I always had that patience.

When people say or do things that upset me, my first though is to correct them.   However, correcting difficult people can often turn into an argument or even damage a relationship.

I have learned a few ways for dealing with difficult people.

Nice people have bad days.

Sometimes people are difficult, because they are having a bad day.  Giving these people support and understanding can help them get past their difficult day.  Arguing with people who are just having a bad day can create hard feelings that go long past the bad day.

If someone says something that upsets me, I can let it go through one ear and out the other.  Often when people are having a bad day, the things that bother them are not that important to them or to me.

Confronting bad behavior

In two separate companies, I had situations where I dealt with workplace bullies.  Both men would correct people.  Neither had any authority.  Correcting people was how the bullies controlled other people.

They corrected people in front of other people. They embarrassed people.

We had people quit committees over the behavior of the bullies.  In some cases, we had people leave the company.

At each company, I met with the men and discussed their behavior.  In both cases, I focused the discussion on their behavior.  I showed the facts of people quitting committees and the company over things these men had said.

At first, the men denied that their behavior caused the people to quit.  I pressed the issue with the facts of their behavior.  I reminded them of times when they had corrected me in front of other people.

Both changed their behavior.  They quit correcting people.  When I saw them in a private, I complimented them on the changes they had made.  I told them that making personal changes is hard, but that they had made large personal changes that helped other people.

Confronting bad behavior is an important skill in dealing with difficult people.

Loosen up.

Sometimes when people bother me, I just need to loosen up.  I just need to relax.  I can take a breath.  I can count to ten.  I can take a walk.  If I am hungry, I can eat a healthy snack.

I can remember that I am not right all the time.  I can let things pass.  I can take into account that other people are not getting upset about what a person is doing.  I can remind myself that I am not everybody’s boss.

When I try to be the person who is right all the time, I become the person who is being difficult.  I can loosen up and allow other people to be who they are not who I want them to be.

Avoid acting when angry.

When I act out of anger, I usually makes things worse.  Writing angry notes, sending angry emails, making angry statements always make matters worse.

However, writing does help take the sting out of anger.  What I can do is write the notes or emails and send them to myself or just put them in the trash.

When I am in an argument, I can defuse the situation by asking people to give you some time to think about the situation. I can insist that it is just the wrong time for me to talk about the disagreement.  Then I can schedule a meeting with the person when we have both calmed down.

Focus on the job.

When conflicts develop over things that are not about the job, I just avoid them.

Arguing about sports, politics, religion, or outside issues is pointless in the workplace.  What is important is doing a great job.

I had an affiliate who loved sports.  His favorite teams were in Chicago.  He would taunt me about sports teams in San Francisco and Sacramento.  Most of the things he taunted me about were things that just did not interest me.  Eventually, I broke off the relationship.  It was just pointless to deal with the taunting over issues that really did not interest me.  I needed to focus on the job.

My co-workers are not my enemies.

I remind myself that people at my workplace are on my team.  Working with people instead of having conflicts with people helps everyone do a better job.

The rah-rah rituals of sports teams creates bonds among the team members.  I show respect to my co-workers and thank them for their help.  I tell them that it is great to be a member of the same team.  I tell people they did a great job.

Become a great listener.

I like to talk. I like other people to listen to what I have to say.

It is good for me to remember that other people like to talk as well.  On some days, people really need people to listen to them.  They may just need to decompress.  They just need to let the air out of the bag.  In this case, letting the person vent a little is all that I need to do to get past the conflict.

By listening, I can learn from people, even difficult people.

Return the discussion to work matters.

When people are talking too long about the things that are bothering them, I can help end the conversation.  I do not ask questions that will just extend the conversation.  When I see that people have said that they need to said, I change the subject back to work.

 Dealing with difficult people is a skill.

Learning to deal with difficult people is a skill that helps me at work, among friends, volunteer committees, and even public places.

I am not always perfect at dealing with difficult people, but I can practice developing the skill and get better through practice.

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