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6 Tips and Techniques to Deal with Difficult People


We all know someone or work with someone who we perceive to be a difficult person. This could happen for many reasons; It could be that your personalities don’t mesh well together, or one or both of you are overly sensitive, or you could feel some attitude coming from the other person due to their lack of confidence, self-doubt in themselves or incompetence’s, so their defense mechanism is to attack. Again, many many reasons why.


But let’s look into tips that you can use to deal when you’re in such a situation:


1. Validate and reaffirm

When someone does not feel heard or understood they often resist and push-back. By Simply validating or reaffirming that you heard them, or understand their point of view, you make them feel significant, that they are heard, and you can move the discussion more productively.


2. Make it about the Situation not the Person

I can tell you from personal experience how you phrase things will make a big difference. Using the pronoun “You” makes others feel attacked for example “You didn’t submit the report, and now the entire project is delayed” vs “the report was not submitted on time and now the project is delayed”

Another example “your report/ idea has several issues” vs “the report/idea has several issues”

This way they don’t feel personally attacked and their focus can be on resolving the issue rather than pushing back. At the end of the day what’s done is done so focus on communicating in a way that will get you result not a fight.


3. Use “I” instead of “You”

As mentioned before “you” comes with a risk of making the other person defensive so consider using “I” if appropriate if the “Situation” is irrelevant as mention above. For example, “You didn’t send me the email” vs “I didn’t receive the email” this way people are less likely to react negatively.


4. Ask questions rather than make statements

Difficult people usually are head-strong and opinionated and stubborn. Sometimes their viewpoint is right, but other times they could be wrong. When you know that they are wrong, a more effective way to sway their opinion is by playing devils-advocate and asking probing questions (not sarcastically, but respectfully because you’re not a child.) By asking questions, you might be able to help the person recognize the issues in his or her own position, with less risk of a confrontation.


5. Use appropriate tone & bridging phrases technique when needed

If you sense that a communication breakdown has occurred, address it immediately. They could be talking louder, more aggressive, interrupting you because they have become emotional bout the situation and they are in the “Child State” throwing tantrum. You need to first remain in the “Parent State” so you can bring them back to that state and have a meaningful outcome.

So, remain calm, let them finish (bite your tongue if you must but let them complete finish their tantrum) and simply say:

“May I speak now without being interrupted please? you’ve had your say, now allow me the same courtesy”

Wait for their confirmation, this allows you to reset the stage from Child to Parent state.

Then use a bridging phrase technique so you can highlight your meaning better and have more freedom to re-explain or restate.

  • “That’s not what I said.”

  • “That was not my question.”

  • “We’re actually saying the same thing.”

  • And if you get interrupted again say “Please let me finish.”

I hope you find these tips useful and remember to always remain in the "Parent State" and try and bring them back to it
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