Dealing with difficult people

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Conflicts are a normal part of life. In your personal and professional life, you can expect that disagreements will arise. Having a conflict is all about perspective, difference of opinion and lack of control. Your impression and feeling is that the person you are interacting with is being difficult, unreasonable and even belligerent. Basically, you feel you are right and the other person is wrong. You are trying to use your communication skills to influence him or her to see things your way and to agree and cooperate. Sometimes, you can’t convince him or her to see it from your point of view.

During the disagreement, often you are so upset that you either escalate the dispute or you avoid any listening or discussion. You don’t consider putting yourself in his or her shoes. So you are not gaining any perspective nor seeking to understand. There is little or no chance of reframing and looking at common ground or shared purpose. Both escalation and avoidance prevent you from seeing avenues for compromise and understanding. Of course, the third option is to agree to disagree.

The first thing to do when dealing with difficult people is to stay calm and listen empathically to their point of view.  Be generous in how you listen to the other person. If you see something you can agree on, try to focus on the shared understanding and on the common ground. Check your understanding and use constructive feedback with difficult people. Let the other person know that you are making an extra effort to understand his or her view point. If you can, supply at least two potential win-win solutions to the problem. Speak respectfully from the heart.

If after all your best efforts, you still disagree with the other person, express your view assertively but always with respect. You may decide to agree to disagree, while maintaining your relationship. In the end, you must have realistic expectation about what you can achieve in a conflictual situation with a difficult person.

How do you deal with difficult people?

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