|“I am thankful for all the difficult people in my life, for they have shown me whom I do not want to be.”
In our last blog, we promised a template to help you deal with ‘difficult’ people. Here it is.
Don’t take it personally! This can be quite a challenge, but try to realise that in many situations you are the ‘bunny’ representing the organisation to a very unhappy, frustrated, angry or ‘difficult’ customer. They have a strong need to vent their feelings, and you just happen to be the person there at the time!
Develop a partnership mindset. Instead of seeing the other person as the ‘enemy’, try to see yourselves as partners in a problem-solving exercise, looking for a positive outcome. It’s amazing how differently they can respond if you respond with this mindset.
Breathe! When we become stressed, we tend to breathe very shallowly. Breathing deeply can reduce some of this stress.
Change negative self-talk to positive self-talk . What are you telling yourself? “This is terrible!” “Why does it always have to be me?” and so on? Change it to something like “I can deal with this”, “We can get a positive outcome here”, and so on.
Be creative in exploring options for solving the problem. There is a problem-solving technique called Appreciative Enquiry, which gets us to look at what has worked up till now and build on that, rather than focussing on the problem and looking for options to fix it. Work together to find creative solutions to the problem/issues.
Empathise with the other person, and demonstrate active listening skills. Acknowledge where they’re coming from. A simple acknowledgement, e.g. “that must be very frustrating for you” can go a long way toward calming the other person down.
Give the other person a few minutes to ‘vent their spleen’ and calm down. When another person is very upset, it is difficult to have a rational discussion and to resolve the issue. Allow them to express what’s going on for them before you jump in.
When necessary, take time out, and/or debrief with someone supportive. Dealing with ‘difficult’ people can be very stressful. Talk to someone who really does care!
You may ultimately need to be assertive and stand up for your rights or emphatically state your boundaries. If the other person continues to be belligerent or very unreasonable despite your doing all of the above, you need to be very firm. You ultimately have a right and a need to be treated with respect.
By carrying out the above practices, there is a strong chance that the outcomes will be very different, whether it’s with customers, work colleagues, your boss, friends, family, or whoever. You may even find that the theme of your interactions could change from difficult people dealing with difficult people to reasonable people dealing with reasonable people!
How effectively do you deal with difficult people? Which of the above tips would help you to deal more effectively with them?
Narayan and Tulsi