by John Hawkins | October 2, 2007 4:49 am
A friend of mine was asking me for advice on how to deal with difficult people. Between dealing with office politics and the fall-out from real politics, I’ve come up with a pretty good system for doing just that over the years and I thought it might be a good idea to make a post out of what I told her,
#1) Be a reptile. By that, I mean that you shouldn’t be surprised when an annoying person acts in an annoying fashion. It’s just what they do, so be cold blooded about it and don’t let them get to you. Don’t get angry, don’t get frustrated, don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment.
#2) If it’s possible to avoid dealing with them at all, do it. Life’s too short to deal with difficult people on a regular basis if it’s not a necessity.
#3) If you do have to deal with them, try to be exceptionally reasonable and polite to the point of killing them with kindness.
Why? Because it makes you appear to be the reasonable and polite one to others. Perhaps more importantly, some of these people get off on making people angry and getting a reaction. Don’t give them what they want.
#4) Treat every interaction with them as if 5 people might see it and don’t give them any angle they can use to hurt you. These people are not your friends, they’re probably not going to play fair, and they will try to stick it to you any way they can. Don’t give them the opportunity.
#5) Decide what behavior you’ll tolerate and what behavior you won’t BEFOREHAND, and stick to it. Notice that I put the word beforehand in all caps. Make your decision when your head is clear, not when you’re angry and then draw a line and be firm. If you don’t do that, you may find them pushing you further and further and behaving in a more and more unreasonable fashion. They need to understand that you will only allow them to go so far.
#6) Most of the time, steps one through five will be enough to allow you to deal with difficult people in the work place or in your life. However, some people, you just cannot treat in a civilized, rational manner. They will keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you just have to set them straight. If you do get to that point, think about it, measure your response, and then calmly, unemotionally, verbally eviscerate them.
If you do that well enough, they will probably try to avoid you from that point on. If not, then go back to step 4 and then rinse and repeat.
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