Examine three levels of response to difficult people—live with it; work around it; or confront it and try to change they way they behave towards you. What if they have power? Or they are not that bad? What if yours is only a one-off interaction?
- When you're faced with a difficult person, you really only have two options. And these are either to change what you do or to change what they do. To put that a bit more precisely, change how you handle the situation, given that they probably aren't going to change. Or to try to change them. For example, if someone keeps coming into your house with muddy boots on, the first option is to fit a dirt collecting mat in the doorway followed by an easily cleanable carpet in the hall.
The second option is to try to train them to take their boots off in the doorway. Which may require an incentive or a punishment if they don't. Or getting them some nice new slippers, whatever. Or if a person at work isn't doing their fair share of the project, the first option is to do a bit more yourself, so the projects are still okay. Maybe try to avoid working with them next time. While the second option is to confront them and try to get them to pull their weight. The second option is the right one for the long term good of the organization and maybe for the person.
But it's harder. Sometimes, you have to find better ways to live with it. Say, if the difficult person has all of the power. Or he or she really is incapable of changing. Perhaps, if they keep ringing up with problems with their computer and they literally don't have the brain power to learn what to do. Or if it's a one off meeting, so you don't have time to change their behavior. Dealing with the public is often like this. Each person is another new interaction, which is hard to change.
So what you really need is ways to deal with it more easily. And sometimes, it's worth putting up with the occasional bad habit if the rest of the person is great. I play music with a guitarist who's a great player, but he can be quite difficult at times. But he is what he is and overall I feel that the association we have is worth it. By the way, before we carry on with the second option, which is to change the other person, I just want to say that living with someone else's bad behavior isn't necessarily weak.
Maybe it's not worth trying to change everyone else. It's easier and perhaps even better for your friendships and your working relationships to let them be. I think it takes a big person, not a weak one, to think, does this really matter? And then rise above it and ignore it. But other times, you really must do something about it. I viewed a house once, I was thinking of buying it. And the lady selling it had a little dog that followed us around from room to room, barking at me.
And in every room, there was at least one dog poo on the carpet. Just before I'd seen all the rooms, I accidentally stepped on one. And the lady got really annoyed, "You've squashed that into the carpet. You'll have to pay for the carpet to be cleaned now." and when I said, "well, why are they there then?" she said the dog was untrainable. So she lets them dry out and then scoops them up with a little shovel. Well, I don't know about you, but I think that dog can be trained and must be trained.
And I think some people are like that. If you let them get away with it, then they'll keep on doing it. So, have a look at this diagram and you can see, these are your options. First, are you going to let them continue, but change how you deal with their behavior? Or are you going to try to change them? Next, if it's the first option, are you going to change how you think, or what you do? For example, if someone is regularly late, are you going to consciously decide not to be irritated by their apparent disrespect? Does it really matter? Or are you going to take actions to make it less of a problem? Like, bringing fill in work to the meeting so you could be getting on with something useful as you wait for them.
Or having the meeting at your office so you can easily do other work. Or maybe having it at their office, so they have to stop with their other things when you arrive. We'll deal with the second half of the diagram later. But first, I just want you to take a moment to think about whether the difficult people in your life need to be changed or not. Would it be better all around for you to find a way to adapt to them? Either by being less uptight about their behavior, or by finding a way to make the behavior less of a problem? Or, alternatively, are there some people who've been getting away with too much for too long and who do need to change, with your help?
In this course, Chris Croft shares methods for recognizing the characteristics of some of the most common types of difficult people, and gives you strategies for dealing with these individuals more effectively. Chris provides practical techniques for dealing with a variety of different behaviors, including negativity, aggression, childishness, and selfishness. Plus, he explains how to overcome your own negative thinking, and get the best from a difficult boss.
LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
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- Identifying and understanding difficult people
- Handling aggressive and passive-aggressive people
- Working with negative people
- Working with procrastinators and people with bad habits
- Conquering your own negative thinking
- When the difficult person is your boss
- Dealing with micromanagers