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How to Deal With Difficult People


Maintaining your pride and fairness in the office.

I love handling difficult people.


For much of my life I felt like a coward because I was afraid of bullies. Then I had children and didn't want them to be as disappointed in me as I was for being a chicken. I became determined to find a way to handle them. And now I feel redeemed.

What I've discovered about nearly all difficult people is that they have a way of exasperating or infuriating you. They do that by trying to bully you or whining so loud that it's like nails on a chalkboard. When that happens, you're so frustrated, you either shut down or get belligerent with them. If you do either, they win.

I've also discovered that what enables them to get the better of you is that you mistakenly expect them to be civil and respectful, when in fact they're always difficult if you're discussing anything they want to do or don't want to do. That means you lower your guard, expecting a decent conversation -- then wham, they blindside you, and while you're off balance, they go for the jugular and usually find it.

What's the solution?

Expect them to try to upset you to get their way. When they do, pause for a count of three (poise begins with a pause). They usually don't have substance to back themselves up and will become nervous because their tactic didn't work.

Then say, "Hmm, why don't you run that by me again and tell me what it is you would like me to do that is fair and reasonable to everyone it affects. If it isn't fair and reasonable, I'm going to have a problem with it and probably won't be able to give you a 'Yes.' "

Because being fair and reasonable is air tight and is also the last thing on their mind, they will be dumbfounded. At that point, say to them with your "Hooray I won!" in understanding's soothing voice, "Look, if what you want me to do is important to you, think about how I can do it and be fair to everyone it affects. Then come back to me and we'll try to make it happen."

They won't come back and, best of all, you won't need to grab a cigarette or eat something bad for you to deal with the knot they usually put in your stomach.
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