“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”
- Thomas Jefferson
We all have someone at work or home that is a challenging person (my someone is Dan). We have also heard the saying “That which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” While most people in business will have to deal with many different types of individuals, none will probably be so challenging that you will not survive. Yet, learning how to deal with these challenging people will make your communication skills stronger! Learn to embrace your challenging experiences with people.
One of the traps you must avoid is being hooked by the difficult person. If you are lured into these situations, you are at risk of losing your control, professionalism and your ability to reason with the person. Challenging people will come in many different types and with many different issues. Since it is always best to remain focused on solving the issue, the following tips can be implemented to defuse the individual.
“I want to let you know how I am feeling because I believe that it will clear the air between us.”
You can share an appreciation, but make sure it is sincere. “Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed working with you, and lately I’m feeling…”
Use the first person and say, “I’m feeling irritated/annoyed/angry.”
Don’t distance yourself from your feelings with generalizations such as, “When people…” or, “It’s annoying when...”
Specify the Degree of Anger
This can vary from, “I’ve been getting slightly irritated,” to, “My fury is reaching the boiling point.”
If you just say, “I am angry with you,” you may prompt them into aggressive defensive behavior.
Don’t Accuse Others of Making You Angry
Your irritation might be their pleasure!
No one has the power to make you feel anything. Instead of saying, “You make me feel angry,” say, “I get angry when…”
Avoid Self-Put Downs or Invitations to Criticism
Don’t say, “I know that I’m a bit of a nag/I’m over-sensitive/etc. …” or, “You’ll probably scream at me when I tell you…”
You could be putting inflammatory ideas into otherwise quite amenable heads!
Share Your Feelings of Threat and Fear
For example: “I’m hesitant to say this to you because you may get angry with me.”
This will help you to feel more in control of your feelings and may get you some welcome and helpful reassurance. (For example, they may respond with, “No, I promise that I will try and listen to what you have to say without walking away.”)
Acknowledge Your Responsibility
“I appreciate that I should have said something earlier.”
“I am the kind of person who has very high standards.”
“I may be over-reacting because I am under a lot of stress.”
Self-Protective Techniques to Block Criticism
Criticism is a key weapon of an angry person. Often it is used indiscriminately and is well off-base. In order to protect yourself and stop criticism from escalating, use these techniques.
Fogging: Agree that there may be some truth in what the person is saying.
Negative Assertion: Simply, calmly agree with your critic using a serious, matter of fact tone of voice, without adding any put downs or unnecessary justifications.
The key to remember is that challenging individuals must first be defused, and then the conflict resolution process can be resumed. At any time during the conflict resolution process, a nerve can be struck with an individual. The process for dealing with challenging individuals will involve defusing the customer by listening, questioning, and the techniques described above. The final step is to bridge the conversation back to the task at hand and delivering the appropriate response to progress with the conflict resolution process. Learning how to deal with these challenging people (dealing with your Dan) will make your business skills stronger.
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