Posted by: Christine Donovan | April 5, 2010

Handling Difficult People, Part 2

… Continuing our discussion on “Handling Difficult People”…
Let’s look at three categories of  “difficult people”:

1. Those Irritating People.    

OK, I have to be honest; if you ever find yourself complaining about somebody who has an annoying habit or who doesn’t quite fit your personal standards of behavior, it’s likely more your problem than theirs. 

I used to work with a man who constantly jingled the change in his pocket. We could hear him coming down the hall (ala the alligator who swallowed the ticking clock in Disney’s Peter Pan!), we heard the jingles even as he sat in his office. And it was irritating, until one day I had the revelation that there were more important things to be annoyed by.  So I decided to tune out the jingles and eventually didn’t notice it any more. Very easy remedy.  

We can all make our lives less stressed by merely accepting (even embracing) the personal habits of others.

 So, here is a short list of what people can get irritated by:  

— Clothing, hair styles, shoes, manicures (or lack of), etc.   

— Bad habits (gum chewing, teeth picking, nail-biting, knuckle cracking)   

— Speech (accents, grammar, loud/soft, etc)  

— Life choices (who they date, marry, socialize with, etc)  

— Religious, political views, or other areas of individual choice that people have a right to (unless they force it on you in some way of course.)  

— Certain behaviors such as being quiet, loud, distant, energetic, slow, negative or braggadocios. What all of these silly irritations have in common is that they really have nothing to do with YOU. They don’t interfere with your work, your reputation, your career… so why do you let it bother you?    

We can all make our lives less stressful by merely accepting (even embracing) the personal habits of others… especially when it has absolutely no direct effect on us.   

2. Personality Differences    

When any group of people get together, whether it’s for work, school, church, community, charity or other purpose, there are bound to be personality clashes. In fact, it is the rare group that doesn’t encounter some differences.    

As leaders, we need to accept this reality and be prepared for it when it appears, because it will. And as leaders, we really need to set the example of patience and tolerance. We can’t allow ourselves to succumb to petty differences, personality clashes, etc. We must rise above it, and be a leader.    

That being said, how DO you get those difficult people to stop being so difficult?    

Here’s an excerpt from a website on mediation that offers a unique, simple, but often difficult solution:    

From Tammy Lenski’s – :  

There’s a single, powerful and highly effective tool for managing difficult clients (or employees, colleagues and bosses for that matter). […]     

It’s a deceptively simple tool at first blush, perhaps so simple that you may be tempted to scoff at it. Dismiss it, even. It’s harder to use than it looks, because it takes commitment to master. Once mastered, though, it will be freely at your disposal and you’ll find that it can unlock even the most challenging conversations with difficult people at work. It’s a tool skilled mediators use because we know its power.     

Here’s what it takes to master it. Are you up to the challenge?     

1. Adoption of a new belief. You won’t believe the tool at first, but if you’re skeptical, your doubt will shine through and leave you less able to use the tool with any real effectiveness.     

2. The ability to stop yourself when you find your hot buttons getting pressed by a difficult person. With the ability to stop yourself for a moment, you create space to remind yourself of your new belief, which will help you make different choices in your conflict conversation.     

3. Willingness to keep trying to use the tool until you master it. If you’re someone who tries a tool once, then grows frustrated when you can’t use it perfectly right away, then this tool probably isn’t for you. As with any major change in how you do something, you need a bit of commitment and the spine to pull it off.     

That’s it. If you can do those three things, then this tool is one you may want to get right away. And you don’t even need to buy it. You don’t need to go any-where to get it. All you need to have this tool at your disposal is to think a new thought.     

3. Difficult people who have a direct effect on us.    

I’ll save this category for the next issue, because it deserves more space. There are a few basic techniques (and attitudes) to help us tolerate, and even succeed with difficult people in our lives, so I’ll offer those for next time.

In the meantime, take a deep breath, relax, and learn to ignore, tolerate and smile at the annoying habits of others.  There is a good probability that you have a few of your own…

See you next time —

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