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Dealing with Difficult People


Who are difficult people?
– people who irritate us
– people who make us lose control over a situation
– people who use manipulation to get what they want
– people who make us feel anxious, upset, frustrated, angry, etc.

Dealing with difficult people means dealing with difficult behavior! If your response to their behavior is negative, you will contribute to their difficult behavior. You may not be able to change their behavior – people only change when they want to change. However, you can manage your own response or reactions to their difficult behavior. Knowing how to communicate effectively will hopefully influence them in a positive way as you are acting as a model for proper behavior in a difficult situation.

What makes people difficult?
– Their needs are not being met!
– They have high need for human intimacy but fear closeness. The need for intimacy brings them towards others emotionally but their fear of closeness pushes them away. When they become difficult, they succeed when they are rejected. If you respond to their hurt and their desire for closeness not to their difficult behavior, their difficult behavior will stop or at least, will decrease.

Common reaction when dealing with difficult people
1. You defend yourself.
– When someone is rude and angry, you feel attacked verbally. You become defensive and find reasons to excuse the problem. This is an automatic response.
– They do not care whether you or somebody else made the mistake. They just want for the problem to be resolved.
– This is a no-win situation for you. You become defensive and frustrated. They remain difficult as the problem has not been solved.

2. You’re upset. However, you do not say anything and concentrate on solving the problem.
– Even though you’re not showing your emotions, you’re upset and without realizing, you are absorbing their anger. Eventually, you will release your anger. You may become irritable with your peer, supervisor, spouse, your dog or worse, you start drinking to get into a better mood or to relax.
– This is a win situation for them as they got what they needed. However, this is a no-win situation for you. You are still upset and displace your anger towards others even though they had nothing to do with the situation.

3. Before responding, recognize that they are angry at the situation, not you. You just happen to be there so you become the recipient of their anger or frustration.
– Since they are angry at the situation, not you, there is no need for you to become defensive!
– You accomplish this by:
– asking questions to clarify the problem
– paraphrase the problem to demonstrate your understanding of the problem.

Basic Communication Skills
1. Paraphrasing: to express meaning in other words; to re-phrase; to amplify a message.
– If you are repeating what they tell you, that’s not paraphrasing- that’s parroting.
– If you ask for confirmation of your understanding of the problem, that’s paraphrasing
– Paraphrasing is essential in communication. It shows that you listen and understand their situation.

2. Interpretation
Many words mean different things to different people. Do not make assumptions that you know what they are, especially when the information is not clear. Very often, we hear what we want to hear. Clarify the information being given!

3. Do not offer your opinion
When someone is upset, he is not interested in your opinion of what happened. He just wants for the problem to be resolved.
– Ask questions and paraphrases what they are telling you, to check your understanding of the problem.
– Establish a plan of action.
– Set a deadline for the problem to be resolved.
– Follow-up!

4. Make the best of a bad situation
– Remain calm.
– Do not argue or make accusations.
– Check your understanding by paraphrasing what the client said.
– Be consistent in your response.

5. Listening.
We spent 80% of our conscious hours using basic communication skills; writing, reading, speaking and listening. Listening accounts for more than 50% of the time. We listen in spurts. Most of us are unable to give 100% attention to what’s being said for more than 60 seconds at a time. We concentrate for a while, then our attention lags, then we concentrate again.
– We speak at a speed of 125 to 150 wpm. Yet, we’re capable of listening at a speed of 750-1,200 wpm.
– Ways to improve your listening skills: – pay attention to what is being said
– do not make assumption
– paraphrase what is being said
– listen for feelings

Argument photo available from Shutterstock

Dealing with Difficult People


Aaron Karmin


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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2020). Dealing with Difficult People. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2020/07/dealing-with-difficult-people/

 

Last updated: 24 Jun 2020
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