People are a part of life. We are related to people, live around, and work with people. People come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you are a person who works out of your home and does not encounter co-workers in the office, there will still be ample opportunity to meet difficult people. Difficult people enter and leave our lives, and when we feel we have handled one situation well, get ready, there will be more. How do you handle a difficult person? Allow me to give you a few tips:
1 Listen. Often after a few problematic exchanges, there is a temptation to tune-out the person. One good practice I have discovered is to focus on listening to them. To do this, I have to push past my feelings and past experiences and focus on the issues at hand. Even tricky people can add value, and I must hear them out.
2 Choose your battles. Not every battle is one worth fighting. Do not become a full-time adversary with difficult people. They enjoy it and feed off of the event. Not everything is worth the energy a battle requires. Make sure that if you do need to battle that you are clear on the purpose and that it is unavoidable.
3 Stick to facts/rise above. When we get emotionally involved with winning an argument with someone who enjoys arguing, we are going to lose. Do not get sucked into every possible dispute. Sticking with the facts is like having a guard rail on the road of your life. When we have committed to not becoming a sparring partner with someone, does not necessarily mean the exchanges will be less challenging, but that you will not unnecessarily be drawn into more conflict.
4 Stay calm. Breathe. Remind your heart that you are not going to react emotionally. Practice staying in control. Pause before you speak. Find whatever you can that will help you to maintain your emotional equilibrium.
5 Enlist others. Having someone with you will assist you in maintaining control of your emotions. Recruit a family member, co-worker, or friend that understands the situation and can help you to diffuse any situation that arises.
6 Don’t react. Not reacting will take practice, prayer, and finding exercises to assist you in maintaining a peaceful spirit. When we go through life, responding to every argument, we will bounce from fight to fight. Practice keeping your cool.
7 Don’t argue but be assertive. Difficult people are argument magnets. They love to debate. The advice I am giving seems to be saying two things that are opposite: don’t argue but be assertive. Do not get into the quicksand of arguing with a difficult person, but do not become passive, if there are principles at stake do not be argumentative, but do not give up, you must be assertive for the truth regardless of who is involved.
8 Set boundaries/but be polite. When beginning an encounter with a difficult person, you must set boundaries. What will help is maintaining good manners and being respectful in your conversation! You can be firm and yet establish boundaries.
9 Debrief. Find an accountability partner who can help you debrief after a tough meeting with a difficult person. This person can help you maintain your sanity and help you to evaluate what went well and what did not work and what may work the next time. If nothing else it can help you to vent and move on.
I would be interested in what techniques you have used and found helpful when dealing with difficult people. Please let me know. Best wishes as you lead.