How to handle difficult people

Oh man what a thing. Nobody likes working with difficult people right?

There are however one or two tips you can use top make life a bit more bearable and hopefully change things for the better.

So look let’s start with a fact – there are some people who you are never going to get along with. Never.

So you need to accept that most people you’ll be able to get along with, some people might need a bit of work and for others (a very small number hopefully) you may need to just find coping strategies!

It’s not them it’s you!

This is a really difficult one to handle but some times the difficult person isn’t them it might be you.

I’m afraid you have to have more self awareness than the average British MP and actually look at your behaviour.

Are you doing stuff that might be insensitive, annoying, irritating?

If so then the so called ‘difficult behaviour’ may simply be someone reacting to your actions.

So stop it.

Shift your paradigm

Dontcha just love a management buzz phrase?

In real world talk this just means seeing the world from their point of view.

Try to understand their motivations, is something bothering them? Do they have personal problems? Do they feel under pressure or insecure?

I remember once I worked in an office that had a lady who was the most objectionable, moody, angry person I had come across up to that point (Brexit has changed that).

One of the managers had a chat with her and it became clear that all her anger was simply that she was spending all her hours either caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s or worrying about her mother.

All of a sudden her moods became understandable and her anger at being delayed at the end of the day by 5 minutes was natural.

Once we understood the problems she was having we were able to make changes that allowed her to be more flexible in her work hours, we could take some of the load off and we could cut her some slack.

It was a horrible situation for her but I’d like to think she knew then that we were there to help.

Speak to them

I know right?

And not just about a work thing. Take the time to have a quick chat, find some common ground.

So often we blaze through our working day just hammering out one task after another that we rarely get to know our co workers.

It’s amazing how helpful people become once they know you have a shared interest in trains, newts or Star Trek. (I love Star Trek)

5 Don’ts

Ok so there are some things that you really shouldn’t do when dealing with a ‘difficult’ person

Don’t get defensive.

For older viewers this is like the cold war arms race with one side upping the ante and then the other being forced to respond.

Don’t get angry.

I know that this is often the emotional response we all feel but you need to engage your logical brain and remember that it won’t achieve anything.

Don’t judge them

you’re in no position to judge people if you don’t know what’s going on.

Don’t criticise or belittle them to other people

This will not end well. It makes you look small and if it gets back to them then it will just make the situation worse.

Don’t demand that they play ball.

It just builds in resentment and frustration.

People have to choose to do something to make it a positive development.

5 do’s

Do Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person.

Let them know that you respect their opinion and that they matter,

Do look for what they really need.

They may be complaining or obstructive about a project you are working on but it might not be this that is upsetting them.

Do respect personal space

getting ‘up in people’s face’ might make you feel big and clever but I guarantee that you’ll regret it

Do set limits and boundaries

Yes you want to make the situation better but you shouldn’t have to put up with people swearing at you or shouting.

Let them calm down and then tell them that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable.

Do give yourself a chance to de-stress

If you have been in say a meeting with a diffcult person then take a 5 minute walk around the block or go for a coffee but just allow yourself time to get over the situation.

Then take a look at how you are going to handle it.

And the best coping strategy is…

If there is someone who you just can’t get along with and who you are forced to interact with then ask yourself

Will this matter in a year’s time?

If not then don’t worry about it. Just smile to yourself and move on.

If it will then you’ll need to speak to your manager (or their manager).

I hope these have been helpful – there some more tips on how to handle conflict here

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