Dealing with 'Difficult' People

Updated: Nov 1, 2019



Are people really difficult or is it something else?

How do you deal with difficult people and how can you help others do the same?


“People have one thing in common: they are all different.” ~ Robert Zend


People are not their behaviour

How do 'difficult people' come in to being? Are they always difficult in every situation? Usually we think of people as difficult when we have a communication breakdown or when they don't do what we want. The usual responses are to accept it, which is akin to ignoring it, or to try and change them, but, neither of those options are really very helpful in the long term.

People’s behaviour is determined by their beliefs, values and attitude which are reinforced by results, outcomes and performance and these are affected by relationships, trust and sharing. What that means is that in order for behaviour to change some thing has to change in relationship/trust which will improve results or outcomes which will change the belief which in turn changes to behaviour.

For example - you believe the person you are about to meet with is difficult, this is based on the fact that every meeting you have had to date on the subject has had a negative outcome, there is an unwillingness to share information or trust the person. This being the case i.e. if you change nothing, then you will get the same result. You will eventually accept it or you will continue to try and change the person.

So what are the real choices when it comes to managing difficult people? - Know what you want - Know what they want - Change your reaction to their difficult behaviour

People are not difficult - relationships are difficult. Change your line of communication.


What can you do?

Four key things you can to do

  1. Acknowledge their feelings or experience. Don't react - breathe and relax. Ask them to share more i.e. 'What else do I need to know?’ Clarify and confirm your understanding.

  2. Don't patronize, extend the thought. Agree using 'and' and not but or however.

  3. Offer choices. Offer to take action. Involve the person i.e. 'What do you think?'

  4. Listen by avoiding 'planned answers' before they finish. Get involved in the conversation. Avoid 'me-centered' responses. Try reflecting on both content and the possible intent.

“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” ~ John Ruskin

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