Engaging and Guiding Difficult People

Engaging and Guiding Difficult People


Over the past five posts we have discussed how to deal with difficult people in our work. We have looked at four specific personality types – complainers, sour attitudes, responsibility avoiders, and the spokesperson. In these posts I have offered specific techniques for dealing with each personality.

In this post I would like to offer some general suggestions that can help when dealing with any difficult personality, and people in general.

As managers we always need to approach our people with a willingness to help them succeed and have an interest in what is best for them. We need to keep this first and foremost in our minds.

We also need to try to take emotion out of our reaction to difficult people. Remember most people aren’t necessarily trying to be difficult, some just lack a level of emotional intelligence that will allow them to navigate the difficulties in life in a calm and rational manner. It is your job to be that calm and rational center and direct them in a way that gets them where they need to go in a manner that is in congruence with the organizations objectives and values.

So, here are some general tips for dealing with any difficult personality:

  1. Remain in control of your own emotions
    1. Don’t let them get you frustrated.
    2. Don’t let them pull you in.
  2. Always operate with genuine concern for serving others.
    1. Keeps things in perspective.
    2. Bring a positive emotion to the experience.
  3. Keep the conversation focused on facts.
    1. Avoid hearsay and innuendo.
    2. Bring conversation back to facts.
  4. Put the focus on things that are in the control of the person.
    1. Don’t allow them to go off on things others are doing.
    2. Keep them focused on what they control – their own thoughts and actions.
  5. Stay in control of the conversation.
    1. Do not let them control the conversation to the point of distraction.
    2. Set time limits.
    3. Set parameters of what will be discussed.
    4. Identify what an acceptable outcome will look like.
  6. Allow for disagreement within respectable discourse.
  7. Don’t feel that you have to win them over.
    1. Not all people will like each other but respect must be given.

Don’t allow difficult people to affect how you react with the rest of your team. Remember that all you control are how you think and react to the circumstances you are faced with. Keep cool in the face of challenge and engage people in a positive and calm manner. Always stay true to your principles and don’t allow a difficult person to make you compromise on those basic principles. As long as you act in a consistent manner in line with your values, and those of your organization, you will maintain a positive and engaged team.

If you have found this series helpful sign up for my email list and receive a free PDF copy of A Guide to Dealing with Difficult People as well as a free PDF copy of my book The Peaceful Manager: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing People.

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