Handling Difficult People

Handling Difficult People

Most of the people you encounter are usually pleasant and easy to get along with. But occasionally, you meet those who are not. How should you handle them?

First, determine whether the person is truly difficult or merely annoying. For the merely annoying, it is usually best to ignore them. But truly difficult people are not only unpleasant, they are dangerous. An angry customer can get you fired or force the company to spend time and money trying to correct a mishandled situation. A tough negotiator can wear you down and drive a hard bargain. You cannot ignore them. There are three types of difficult people you may encounter. Here are different ways to deal with each of them.

  • Situationally Difficult

Most of the difficult people you meet fall into this category. They may be emotional, irritable or frustrated by circumstances and vent their anger on you. They are not bad people; they are just having a  rough time. Still, the situation can escalate quickly if you cannot defuse their emotions. Keep your emotions in check. Resist the temptation to respond in kind. Let the other person vent his feelings. Listen, do not argue or interrupt. Empathise. Do not try to reason with him when he is irrational. Ask yourself: “what does this person need and how can I provide it?”

Sometimes, he just needs to vent his anger, receive an apology or get some acknowledgement that he is right. In other instances, you will still have to solve the problem, but only after emotions have cooled. The situationally difficult person is the most common, especially in customer service scenarios.

  • Strategically Difficult

The strategically difficult person is not just having a bad day. Rather , he believes that there are advantages to being difficult. He is not emotional. There is a method to his madness.  The proverbial “tough negotiator” is an example of this type. He employs a variety of tactics to intimidate you or wear you down, knowing he will gain a more favourable outcome for himself. When dealing with this type, you must play by his rules. For every tactic he uses, you must use the appropriate counter-tactic. Stand firm and do not be bullied. This does not mean becoming difficult for yourself – it means understanding his strategy and countering it, staying focused on the issues.

  • Intrinsically Difficult

The intrinsically difficult person is difficult by nature, and he does not want to change. He is not just acting difficult as a matter of strategy – he is truly difficult 24/7.

Of the three types, he is the toughest to handle. Fortunately he is also the rarest.

The intrinsically difficult person is easy to recognise. He is often loud, abrasive, argumentative, stubborn, intimidating and self-centered. He is quick to blame others and never admits  to making a mistake. He does not respond to reason or humor. The intrinsically difficult person enjoys wielding power to overwhelm others. To deal with him, you need to meet his power with your own power, or find a weakness to exploit. FOr example, you may be able to appeal to a higher authority or find allies – there is power in numbers. As a last resort, you may need to threaten legal action. 

As an alternative, look for a weakness to exploit, everyone has an Anchilles heel, When you tactfully let your intrinsically difficult nemesis know you have found his, he will often become a lot more manageable.

Article by David Goldwich

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