Speaker, Trainer, Troubadour, Author

Kim Ratz

Helping people create more harmony
in their own life, and in
their relationships with others ...

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February 2013, from Kim Ratz, Speaker-Trainer-Troubadour

A free, fast, and fun read to inspire hope, improve skills to cope, and induce a chuckle along the way ...

A Thought to Help You LiveWise: "Dealing with Difficult People"

The pain or problem I help people with:
"Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity." This applies to relationships, especially when dealing with difficult people ... How are you doing with that difficult person in your life who you know you will interact with again in the future, and will probably frustrate you again? What are you learning about what works, and what doesn't work with that person? How are you using that understanding to improve how you interact with that person in particular, and other people in general who, in your opinion, just "don't get it?" Even if they drive you insane with their choices, are your choices and actions sane? I recently realized one of my own tendencies as I've been dealing with a "difficult person" in my life ... I learned the more I care about the person, the easier it is for me to let them to "push my buttons" If this happens, I'm much more prone to react impulsively, when instead what I know I should do and want to do is to listen, and then think about how I really want to respond in both word and deed, so that after the interaction I am content with what I did/said, and how I did/said it ... When I react, I am much more likely to say or do something I will regret later, and sometimes this compounds the initial problem being addressed when the button got pushed ...

My suggestion/reminder:
Anticipation is key - be prepared to discipline yourself to respond thoughtfully to someone who you anticipate will push your buttons ... And a quick timeout at that "moment of truth" will help too ... Especially when it's someone you care about and you can predict they'll push your button, here are some suggestions/reminders that might be helpful:

  • Respect & Reframe! If you Respect the person going into the difficult discussion, you are much more likely to say things that will help, and not say things that would hurt ... And you have to figure out how to Reframe this situation so you can see the person in a different way, one that offers hope that maybe you can get along better; i.e. Will Rogers' quote: "I don't like that person very much - I ought to get to know them better." (I use this quote often to go deeper into how to do that - learn more about the other person in the belief and hope that with the additional information and knowledge you will find things you do like about the person, and tips about ways to interact in a positive or at least more neutral way ...

  • Have a plan for what you will do or say to control your impulse response, and give yourself a quick timeout to think ... You might even want to practice a phrase or something you want to remember to say to make sure your response is more "neutral" ... Like: "Hmmm - that's interesting; I had not (or would not have) thought of that," to buy a little time to think about what else you could say that's more likely to be better received, and especially if you don't like it, or you disagree, it delays your putting up any resistance that might put them on the defensive ...

  • One of my mantras to remind myself that people have unique and different styles is: "It isn't about good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse - it's about different." This reminds me to try to figure out what the style difference is, and then how to flex my own style and adapt so it isn't so different from that of the other person ... This is about the only thing I can do to bridge that gap, because as much as you and I want to - we can't change anybody else ...

  • Sometimes the best thing to do is to ask a question - - ask the person directly: "If you ask for help again, how do you want me to respond?" and they'll tell you and you'll wonder why you didn't think of that ... Sometimes you'll ask and you just can't do what they say, and then you need to acknowledge what they said, and explain why you can't do that, and then keep talking, listening, caring and trying ... Sometimes you'll ask and they won't respond ...

  • Be ready to model forgiveness, by giving it when requested, and asking for it when an apology is needed ...

  • And sometimes, you need to accept that even when you say or do what you think is the "right/best" thing, and you do the best you can, or no matter WHAT you do, it still won't be good enough or "right" in the perception of the other person ...

  • Remember there's a difference between "difficult" and "dysfunctional",

  • In all your efforts to be patient and hang in there because its someone you care about, be careful to not become an enabler ... It only prolongs the pain and point at which some people sometimes need to reach before they realize it's time to change their plan because what they've been doing over a long period of time, is just not working, and they decide it is finally time to do something different ...

All you can do is what you believe is the right or best thing, and to do the best you can, and to treat the other person as you would wish to be treated ... What more can you do?

A Thought to Help You WorkWise "Doing the same thing and expecting different results with difficult people at work is also a definition of insanity."

The pain or problem I help people with:
Applying the same principle to the workplace, who is the difficult person you work with, whether a colleague, subordinate or the boss, who keeps making the same mistake over and over again, and they just don't get it?! While the consequences might seem more severe in a work setting than in a personal relationship because of the risk of someone losing a job, it's no more or less risky than dealing with a friend or family member who's being difficult, where you worry about real feelings being hurt and relationships strained ... Many times, the thing the person does that makes them "difficult" to deal with is more of a personality thing, rather than a performance thing ... They do just enough to get by, and if it's re: work, their preformance and choices don't warrant disciplinary action ... If the colleague at work is difficult to work with and it feels like a conflict, of course you'd rather just avoid them altogether! Yet if it's important, like it's your JOB to work with that difficult person, then you need to figure out how to work with them in a way where they aren't pushing your button, and the answer depends on each difficult person you deal with, because each person is unique ...

The suggestion/reminder:
If it's someone at work you know you will interact with again and they are likely to push your buttons in some way, the strategies are similar for personal relationships (Respect & Reframe, & plan for impulse control), with these caveats:

  • Try to think what you did before when you appealed to them, and it worked? What did you do, and what did you learn? Could you do that again in this circumstance?

  • Position the discussion ...It depends on how well you know each other and what the trust level is going into the conflict, yet even if you're well acquainted it always helps to say some positive and sincere things about them and your relationship first, and let them know the feedback you're about to share is meant to help them, not hurt ... Then share your comment with the best wording and approach you can think of ...

  • Be specific, and don't generalize or exaggerate ... Use "I statements" to describe things as you see them, not as they are or as the other does ...

  • With difficult co-workers as with dealing with difficult people who are family members or friends, sometimes the best way to make a point is - to ask a question. Get them to think about the question you want them to answer, because they may have been avoiding that question and the answers, because they anticipated they wouldn't like what occured to them, another form of denial ... And be patient, because it make take them some time to connect these dots, and then to actually verbalize it in the form of an answer or response ...

  • Remember that it's your job to work with them - you don't have to like them. You don't have to agree with them. You do have to be professional and respectful, however, which is why difficult coworkers can be so exasperating, especially if you don't have any authority to do anything about their choices. That's the supervisor's job. Keep this in perspective.

  • Because this person is a work associate and not a friend or family member, sometimes you may not always have the luxury or cost to keep waiting and letting lots of time pass while you are at impasse ... Sometimes you may need to consider if you need to formally complain if you've made the attempt to resolve the issue, things haven't improved and the problem persists, and it's time to ask for a higher-up review and action from a supervisor ... Most organizations and companies have policies and procedures for how to handle conflict between co-workers, so do the best you can to keep it from growing into a full-blown conflict. And if it gets to that point, follow the process for a fair and professional resolution.

Quotes related to "Difficult People" and Reframing for the days ahead ...

  • I think of difficult people as my teacher instead of my enemy.

  • I don't believe in the word regret, I believe in the phase "I know I messed up, and now I've learned from it."

  • Appearances make impressions but it is the personality that makes an impact.

  • Everyone gets bullied for some reason. Their wants, beliefs, how they look or talk ... Never ignore the bad, but experience it, because it makes you stronger and wiser.

  • You always find ways to hurt me, but my heart always looks for reasons to forgive you.

  • Dealing with difficult people makes me realize how much I need to work on my character.

  • When dealing with difficult people, remember you can't control their actions, only your own reactions to them.

  • If you want plenty of experience in dealing with difficult people, then have kids.

  • I'd have to just say that working with other people, it's a different world from school.

  • When you're working with good people it brings good things out in you. When you work with difficult people, it is such an energy drain ...

  • Fake people hate honesty. It's the lies that keep them feeling good about themselves and their lives. So share your true feelings about their actions and watch how they fade away.

  • Difficult People are your key to self empowerment, you need to learn how to cope with them, not let them dominate and affect you.

  • If you're going to be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.

    I help people create more harmony in their own life, and in their relationships with others. It's about Choices and Congruence - by aligning your Attitudes, Aptitudes and Actions - so that at day's end you feel content, not regret. I do this through keynotes that inspire hope, workshops that help people improve skills to cope with change, challenge and conflict, and original music, stories and humor to induce some fun along the way!

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