It can be done. First you need to recognize that it’s all about communication, or lack of it. And, the key to dealing with difficult people is to communicate about the issues (not the person or personality) sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more difficult they may become and the harder it is to improve the situation.
Think of a difficult person and describe the reason they appear “difficult”. Is it an irritating behavior; are they are rude, bossy, or say hurtful things? What, specifically, is the issue?
Next, write down your answers to the following questions. Be honest with yourself:
What is the issue, and, can I articulate that in a calm and rational way? What results am I trying to achieve?
What relationship do I want to have with this person?
And, most important, Do I need to have a conversation about this?
Once you’ve decided to have a conversation, practice and follow these steps:
1. Muster up the courage you need to have a conversation to address the issue you need to address.
2. Focus on the issue, not the person.
Don’t blame the person; describe the actions or behavior that causes the conflict or stress between the two of you. Say something like: “I’m sensing that there are some issues between the two of us that we need to talk through,” or, “I’m feeling that I might have done something to upset you. Can we talk about it?” Be gentle on the person and tough on the issue creating the conflict.
3. Be specific and descriptive.
Describe what specifically is happening and your thoughts, feelings, and wants. What are you thinking and/or feeling? What do you want to have happen?
- Pause and check for understanding. Say, “Do you understand what I mean?” and “Did I understand you correctly?”
4. Listen to what they have to say using your best listening skills. Do your absolute best to conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner regardless of how the other person responds.
5. Regardless of how the conversation goes, thank them. Make an agreement for what happens next. Do you want to meet again to follow-up? What do you want to have happen?
Then, congratulate yourself for taking a proactive approach to handling that difficult person in your life.
I’d love to hear your stories of struggle and success when it comes to handling a difficult person. What are your best tips? What works for you? Please leave a comment below.
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.
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