We can all admit that our actions aren’t always entirely pleasant. This could be caused by external stresses, unsatisfied expectations or self-involved flutters of the ego. Accordingly, we often face difficult situations or somewhat fractious interactions with the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives.
There’s no denying that some individuals have grave, deep seated flaws – be it unstirring arrogance, tunnel vision or an intense adoration for UB40. But it’s always advisable to take an empathetic or proactive (rather than reactive) approach to dealing with difficult people. This applies equally in the workplace, the public arena, at home and online.
Here are five helpful tips for dealing with difficult people while also strengthening our own empathy and inner wellbeing.
Don’t lose your cool
There are times when another’s behaviour will make you want to scream a slew of profanities in their face. But while this may provide a momentary jolt of adrenaline, it’s ultimately a no-win ploy.
Like eating a load of junk food, engaging in petty squabbling is only going to leave you feeling worse off in the long run. If there’s no chance of imminent resolve, take a moment to isolate yourself – perhaps go for a walk or sit down in a quiet room. Given time and space to think, try to conceive a more apt way of tempering the conflict.
You’re probably an incidental target
Aggravated behaviour is usually prompted by something specific (or a whole host of subjective circumstances). If someone in your workplace or on your local netball team is suddenly very crabby towards you, it’s likely a symptom of personal unrest and not a direct attack on you.
Before letting this difficult behaviour chip into your self-esteem, consider what the person could be going though. If you maintain composure, you might be able to assist this person rather than exacerbating their distress.
Meet people half way
When you feel someone’s being too demanding or overbearing, transfer your focus to the issue at hand rather than his or her deficient diplomacy. Weigh up whether it’s worth engaging in battle. If not, see if you can gain their respect (or at least elicit some acknowledgement) by adhering to their request.
This is different to simply submitting or pandering to a person’s vanities. It’s about setting aside egoistic aspirations in the name of practical civility.
Gain strength from friends and allies
If a regular acquaintance is placing a great strain on your mental health, then take solace from the supportive people close to you. Let’s say it’s a workplace bully – if you’ve built up a loyal crew of co-workers, you’re less likely to become feebly vulnerable. What’s more, discussions with people who’re on your side can provide greater insight into the antagonist’s nasty behaviour.
Review your culpability
Now, the blame game is a messy business, even if you feel it’s justified. Try to stay conscious of the fact that difficult situations often arise out of nuanced perspectives or problem-solving methods.
We all behave in a largely routine manner. The thing is, our individual systems and thought practices can vastly deviate from those of others. This means there are times when we face great difficulty communicating or working together with someone else, but our ambitions and desires are actually quite similar. You can likely work around the initial discord by finding common ground and mutually recognising each other’s point of view.
If you would like more help and support with dealing with difficult people, Happy is next running our Dealing with Difficult People workshop on 21st August at our training centre in London. Pricing starts at £95 per person for small charities. Please contact us for details of future dates or to arrange a private group course for your team, held at your workplace or at Happy. Alternatively, view our Soft Skills training programme for details of our other courses.
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