Monday, 3 October 2016

Dealing with difficult people starts with you

From time to time we all come across someone who we do not particularly get on with, find challenging or who simply rubs us up the wrong way. However, the first thing to establish for our own peace of mind is that actually such people are pretty far and few between. Think about how many people you know and what proportion of them you do not get on with? Most of us know hundreds and hundreds people but can probably count on one hand those with whom we have a poor or difficult relationship. Such analysis can be very helpful before we even consider how to better deal with that small handful. By recognising that we get on just fine with the vast majority of people that we know, then when it comes to meeting new people we should have very little concern regarding how we will get on and if we will be able to develop a good relationship. The odds are very much stacked in favour that they will be just the same as the large number of people that you already know.

So when we do meet a ‘difficult’ person what should we do? The answer is often not the one that necessarily sits most comfortably with us, but it does work most of the time. We need to take responsibility for why this person is being as they are and find what we can do to bring about a change.  When thinking about this be careful not to make it personal, assuming that it is somehow about your personality, how you act or tone. It can be the case sometimes, but more often than not it is as a result of misunderstand and miscommunication. Often the biggest cause of problems that in turn lead to challenging situations is that you, the other party or both have jumped to one or more wrong conclusions. 

The first thing is to listen very carefully to what the person is saying. Is there any truth in the view that they are expressing? Could they actually be correct or at least partially so? Thinking this through immediately enables you to take a softer approach with this person because you are able to recognise that they are not just be difficult for the sake of it, but rather have, or believe they have, a valid position. 

Next consider what it is that normally upsets people. The three predominant causes are;
·         Inability to take action – the feeling of powerlessness
·         The unfairness of a situation or process
·         Being misunderstood or not listened to

Ask yourself which one or more of the above might be causing the person to act the way they do. If you are in a position to help overcome what the person believes and/or perceives is happening then take it on yourself to find a cure. Once you are seen to be a solution rather than a problem, the degree of difficult will diminish dramatically. If you are not in a position to provide a solution to the problem, at least you can hopefully cut that individual a little more slack than you might have otherwise done, because you have a better understanding of how they feel.

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