Dealing with Difficult People
What is a difficult person? Most of us would agree that there are difficult people in our lives, but to identify what makes that person difficult would be as different as the person reporting it.
Usually, a difficult person is anyone who consistently gives us a hard time. Someone who is on a different wave-length from us. Our values are different, our methods of approaching a situation is different, our opinions are different or any number of things are different from our point of view.
Is it wrong to have different points of view? Of course not, but sometimes when we get involved with a situation where we're on opposite sides, emotions run high. As soon as our emotions cut in, our logic tends to leave us. When our logic leaves us, we lash out at the other person in order to make our emotions feel better. This type of interaction only makes the matter worse.
In order to deal with someone you consider difficult, you should approach it by trying to see their side of the situation. That doesn't mean you need to agree with them, just that you understand they have an opinion they value.
What you don't want to do is to avoid the difficult situation. If you do, the problem won't be resolved, and in all likelihood, it will get worse. I liken it to sweeping garbage under the rug. It doesn't go away, it just starts to stink. But, that's what so many people do, because they don't know how to deal with the conflict that ensues when dealing with a difficult person.
Open, honest communication is the antidote for dealing with difficult people. But, there is a method you should use.
• First, deal with the situation with the person involved. Don't get others involved, don't try to solve the issue with an audience around the two of you. This adds a dynamic that distracts you and the other person from dealing with the issue at hand.
• Second, set some ground rules. Let them know you have something you want to talk about and that you want to come to a mutual understanding. This is only a fact finding mission. You are to only talk about the issue, not place blame or to get subjective about the situation. It means you are both to hear the other person out without interruption. After the other person has had an opportunity to explain their side fully, you are then allowed to ask for clarification in any area you need it. Then you paraphrase back to them their position to make sure you are in full understanding of what they think. Remember: you are not agreeing with them, you are only finding out their point of view.
• Third, you try to find a solution. You ask the other person how, together you can solve the differences between you.
There are times when you won't change each other's opinions, but you will understand that person. It is okay to agree not to agree. But, that shouldn't damage your relationship.
A perfect example of this would be James Carvel and his wife Mary Maitlin. One is a staunch Republican and the other is an outspoken Democrat. They certainly disagree on areas that are very important to them, but they don't let that ruin their relationship.
We all deal with people we consider difficult, but that doesn't mean we can't have a productive relationship with them.
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