Guest contribution from Dr. Daniel Crosby – more on him at the bottom of the article. I love #3 and #8.
12 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People at Work
Dealing with difficult people in the workplace is something that we all have encountered and will encounter numerous times in the future. Unfortunately, we can’t just quit or “fly off the handle” every time someone does or says something we disagree with. The only way to deal with difficult people is to be prepared for them. These simple strategies encourage you to think before you react. I like to think of it as—having the gift of foresight.
What would the Dali Lama do if he was in the situation? He would most likely forgive. Remember that at our very core, we are good, but our judgment becomes clouded and we may say hurtful things. Ask yourself, “What is it about this situation or person that I can seek to understand and forgive?”
2. Wait it Out
Sometimes I feel compelled to instantly send an email defending myself. I’ve learned that emotionally charged emails never get us the results we want; they only add oil to the fire. What is helpful is inserting time to allow ourselves to cool off. You can write the emotionally charged email to the person, just don’t send it off. Wait until you’ve cooled off before responding, if you choose to respond at all.
3. “Does it really matter if I am right?”
Sometimes we respond with the intention of defending the side we took a position on. If you find yourself arguing for the sake of being right, ask “Does it matter if I am right?” If yes, then ask “Why do I need to be right? What will I gain?”
4. Don’t Respond
Many times when a person initiates a negative message or difficult attitude, they are trying to trigger a response from you. When we react, we are actually giving them what they want. Let’s stop the cycle of negative snowballing and sell them short on what they’re looking for; don’t bother responding.
5. Stop Talking About It
When you have a problem or a conflict in your life, don’t you find that people just love talking about it? We end up repeating the story to anyone who’ll listen. We express how much we hate the situation or person. What we fail to recognize in these moments is that the more we talk about something, the more of that thing we’ll notice. Some would call this the self-fulfilling prophecy. Example, the more we talk about how much we dislike a person, the more hate we will feel towards them and the more we’ll notice things about them that we dislike. Stop giving it energy, stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it. Do your best to not repeat the story to others.
6. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
As cliché as this may sound, we tend to forget that we become blind-sided in the situation. Try putting yourself in their position and consider how you may have hurt their feelings. This understanding will give you a new perspective on becoming rational again, and may help you develop compassion for the other person.
7. Look for the Lessons
No situation is ever lost if we can take away from it some lessons that will help us grow and become a better person. Regardless of how negative a scenario may appear, there is always a hidden gift in the form of a lesson. Find the lesson(s) so you can learn from it and potentially pass the knowledge on to someone else.
8. Choose to Eliminate Negative People in Your Life
Negative people can be a source of energy drain. And deeply unhappy people will want to bring you down emotionally, so that they are not down there alone. Be aware of this. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and do not mind the energy drain, I recommend that you cut them off from your life. Cut them out by avoiding interactions with them as much as possible. Remember that you have the choice to commit to being surrounded by people who have the qualities you admire: optimistic, positive, peaceful and encouraging people. As Kathy Sierra said, “Be around the change you want to see in the world.”
9. Go for a Run
… or a swim, or some other workout. Physical exercise can help to release the negative and excess energy in us. Use exercise as a tool to clear your mind and release built up negative energy.
10. Worst Case Scenario
Ask yourself two questions,
1. “If I do not respond, what is the worst thing that can result from it?”
2. “If I do respond, what is the worst thing that can result from it?”
Answering these questions often adds perspectives to the situation, and you’ll realize that nothing good will come out of reacting. Your energy will be wasted, and your inner space disturbed.
11. Avoid Heated Discussions
When we’re emotionally charged, we are so much in our heads that we argue out of an impulse to be right, to defend ourselves, for the sake of our egos. Rationality and resolution can rarely arise out of these discussions. If a discussion is necessary, wait until everyone has cooled off before diving into one.
12. Express It
Take out some scrap paper and dump all the random and negative thoughts out of you by writing freely without editing. Continue to do so until you have nothing else to say. Now, roll the paper up into a ball, close your eyes and visualize that all the negative energy is now inside that paper ball. Toss the paper ball in the trash. Let it go!
The next time you find yourself dealing with a difficult person, try a few of these techniques to see if they make a difference to your situation. If not, next time try another technique. Remember that different techniques will work better with different people and different situations. Being prepared is the best way to escape, and sometimes avoid, a difficult person.
Dr. Daniel Crosby is a very insightful speaker and author of “You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Book” and creator of SuitedJobs.com; a tool that provides fit scores for your company culture, job and provides suggestions for work that might better suit you. Give it a try!”