Have you ever had to deal with someone who made you see red or your blood boil? As much as we might want to avoid it, there will always be times when we find ourselves dealing with difficult people. They’re out there. They’re at work, in your business, when you’re out socialising, or worse still even at home. To keep things harmonious and preserve your sanity, here are 10 skills you can master for dealing with difficult people.
Staying calm can be tough, but there’s a reason it’s at the top of this list. Developing the skill of staying calm in the moment is a magic power. No matter how much your blood is boiling, try not to lose your cool. Learn to stay calm even when you feel the anger and frustration bubbling up. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or use affirmations. Anything at all that can bring you back to the present moment and help you to remain centered. Handling the situation in a calm and controlled fashion will resolve the things much faster and more effectively. You can unload later in a much healthier way by going for a run or pounding the punchbag for instance.
Difficult people don’t always set out to ruin your day. They’re probably not even aware that they cause so much stress to other people. Always try to assume that everyone has good intentions. Be patient and try to be forgiving, if you can. It can be difficult, but remember when someone behaves in a certain way, it’s about them, not you. Think about what they might be going through. It will help you to be more compassionate and deal with the situation calmly.
Identify their hidden need
Often when someone is acting up, it’s because of some unmet need they have. They may not even know what it is. It might not have anything to do with you at all, or your interaction with them. If you can figure out what their hidden need is, and provide a solution, you may be able to defuse the situation. For instance, they might be lacking confidence themselves. If you can take a moment to build them up and reassure them, you might find that they become easier to deal with.
Listening is another magic power. Often, people just need to get something off their chest and feel like they’re being heard. When you’re listening to them, try to remain unjudgmental and show empathy where you can. Just feeling like they’re being heard can help people to behave in a more reasonable way.
Ask questions and then mirror back what the other person is saying to clarify. This will show them that they have your full attention, and that you understand what they’re saying. If you pretend to understand just to get rid of someone, it will be very obvious and could make things much worse. It will likely cause more problems down the line. Asking open-ended questions during conflict can uncover what’s lying beneath the undesirable behavior.
Get some support
If you’re struggling to understand someone’s behaviour, speak to other people who have faced a similar situation or dealt with this person in the past. It could provide perspective and they might feel the same way as you do. They might have already devised the perfect strategy to deal with it positively too. If nothing else, they will be able to listen and empathise with you. Dealing with difficult people is much easier if you feel like you have support from others.
Have a private chat
If possible, wait until you’re in a calm, patient frame of mind and have a chat in private. Explain to the person being difficult how their behaviour is making you feel. This is not about passing blame or trying to find a solution straight away, it’s just to let the person know the effect they’re having. This might be enough on its own to change the situation. You’re giving them a chance to consider their behavior and make a positive change.
Do things differently
Is there something you could do that could relieve the situation for you? Perhaps you could look at new ways to communicate with the person in question, or make sure you’re not left alone with them if you don’t need to be.
Make a joke
Humour is another magic power number when done right. If you can add a bit of humour into the conversation, you may be able to divert their attention and lighten the situation. Be careful with this one though. Getting it wrong could make things worse.
By staying very clear on what is, and what is not acceptable or saying no, will give the person less opportunities to be difficult. Sometimes, our lack of boundaries or ability to say no is what causes the conflict in the first place. Communicating very clear expectations from the start can help to avoid any difficult or awkward situations arising in the first place.
Try out some of the tips mentioned above and make a note of which ones work best for you. It will take a bit of practice and don’t expect to get it right straight away. Hopefully, the next time you find yourself dealing with difficult people, you’ll be ready and equipped to deal with things in a positive way that works for everyone involved.
If you would like to learn more about how to deal with difficult people, book your free 1:1 coaching session below. Find out more about coaching with Lisa here