Whenever you look at the people around you, you are bound to find a few people who shine at getting onto other people’s nerves. From having a new crisis every hour, to a doubt in every aspect of work, or a completely enviable skill of prolonging work, or a steely resolve to decline work, putting you in the firing line.
You are bound to encounter people with a wide variety of habits that will inevitably put you into stressful situations. You might just have to end up collaborating with someone, who no one else wants to work with.
If you are lucky, you might be able to sidestep a couple of people. However, luck certainly will not favour you every single time.
Learning the skill to not only cope with such people, but learning to deal with them in a manner that lets you become the person who has the upper hand, can definitely make your life a lot easier.
In every relationship, be it professional or personal, there is always someone who is the influencer and there is someone who gets influenced by the other and this is something that we need to understand. You can choose to be the one getting influenced or you can turn the tables around and become the influencer in the relationship.
Becoming the influencer doesn’t mean you become aggressive and it definitely doesn’t mean you get into fights or you become the unreasonable one. It is about you becoming the peacemaker. It is all about taking control and taking the relationship to a level which is mutually beneficial and taking it to a point where it should be.
Whether your conversation becomes a confrontation or not doesn’t depend entirely on you. At times, you need to be prepared to go the distance and find a solution to the problem.
In your professional life, when you want to grow in an organisation, you will have to show your ability to be able to get work done irrespective of what kind of a person you happen to be dealing with. Being able to deal with someone who no one else can deal with, is something that is going to make you stand out amongst those who struggle with difficult people.
When I deal with difficult people, I like to explore my options, bide my time and bring out the big guns only if I don’t have any option left and that is the order in which I have written this article.
Here are some of my tips to handle difficult people at work.
Take a Self Centred Approach
How others deal with the same person is their problem, not yours.
Your intention should be to make your life easy. You want to make sure that you don’t have to put up with the person or their attitude.
Your goal shouldn’t be to change that person’s attitude.
So restrict your thinking to how the person’s attitude affects your work. Do not bother about how that person behaves with others.
Adapt – Don’t Down Your Tools :
Life is so much easier when you have to deal with like-minded people. People who are co-operative and friendly. However, not everyone is the same and you need to understand that.
You just need to accept that, the person in question is not how you expect them to be.
This might sound very mundane or you might think, it is very easy to say that to someone else and only when you have to deal with a difficult person, would you realise how hard and irritating things can be. I agree, however, you need to understand one thing, the other person would behave in the way they do because they don’t see a reason to change. Their life functions as normal, so they don’t have any reason to be any different.
Instead of complaining or feeling bad for yourself or expecting that person to change his/her behaviour, you change the way you deal with them and that begins with accepting their behaviour.
You need to understand that you cannot be your normal self and expect that person to fit into your thought process, you will need to change the way you think and act to deal with the person in question.
It is always easier to change yourself than change someone else. This is why every coach would tell you to change yourself even if it is the other person who is not right.
So be open to adapt yourself to deal with the person in question.
Try to Reach Out
As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. At least try to!
Check if you can succeed where everyone else has failed.
For starters, don’t let their reputation be your guide. Just because no one else has been able to reason out with them, it doesn’t mean you can’t either.
Show them some courtesy. No one likes to be disrespected. So treat them just the way you would like to be treated.
Try to be nice, if you find yourself in a confrontational situation, you could begin by asking them to explain their stand and explain your perspective.
Break Their Defences
When you speak to them in a respectful manner, you get to take the moral high ground and it allows you to break their defence. Some people use their temper or whatever attitude they carry as a defence.
When someone becomes aggressive and starts an attack, it would force you into a defensive mode. All your efforts would go into calming the person down and that person would begin to lead the conversation. They would take the conversation in whatever direction they want and the rest would have to follow.
If you stay calm, whenever the other person chooses to be difficult to handle, by raising their voice or being excessively assertive, you could politely break their only defence and get them to reason out.
Stay Calm and Think
It is not always possible to maintain your composure when you have to deal with a difficult person. We would be tempted to give back as good as we get from people.
You need to be wary of such an attitude. When you react, the other person knows they are leading the conversation and they can lead you where they want to.
Sometimes you could play right into their hands and end up reacting just the way they would have wanted you to.
Instead, choose to stay calm and think of the consequences of reacting to the provocation.
When he/she takes a stand, think about the other person’s intention. Analyze the best method to deal with the situation.
You can learn some techniques to calm yourself down, like deep breathing.
This is something that you could do in any situation and it is one of the “Go to” methods of calming down, including that of the US Navy Seals.
Choose Your Battles Carefully
When you happen to cross paths with a difficult person, you would be tempted to respond to every provocation. However, reacting every single time may not be the wisest thing to do.
Let’s look at things practically, you would have limited options at work. You will have to work within the company policies and if the person in question maintains a good relationship with his/her boss, your options would be limited further.
Don’t display all your cards at once. While confronting the person, wait for the best opportunity to show where they are wrong. You could choose to include all the other smaller instances as well, but wait for the right opportunity to confront them.
Have a Quiet Word
When it becomes evident that you seem to be getting the same treatment that everyone else is, have a quiet word with him/her.
Explain how their behaviour is and where they are wrong. Always have this word in private and make sure to let the person know that you have chosen to do so in private even though you had the option to make this point in front of other members of your team or in the presence of anyone higher in the company hierarchy.
Document and Get an Acknowledgement
Leave no room for ambiguity while communicating.
Whenever you have to deal with someone who is difficult to work with, always be clear with your expectations and document the same.
List out your expectations or give out specific instructions in an email, so you leave nothing to guesswork.
Document things and always get an acknowledgement for the same.
When things are in black and white, you would leave the person with no other options but comply with their commitment.
If things still don’t go according to plan, you could keep everyone else who needs to know about your situation in the loop, by marking them on the email too.
Don’t be Afraid to go the Distance
If things are not getting any better, don’t be afraid to take things up with your manager or with HR.
You don’t have to put up with people who are not co-operative or someone who becomes a hassle in your professional life.
Prepare well, make a good plan about what you want your manager or HR to know about this person. Also, make sure you have enough evidence to prove your point.
What you need to consider is that there is enough evidence to prove that the person hasn’t been doing what he/she is supposed to. Make sure that there is no room for the other person to hide or to use an excuse to escape your accusation.
Get In Touch
Get in touch if you seem to have trouble getting your way around people, if you see others achieving things that you don’t seem to be able to and if you find it a challenge to manage difficult people.