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Do you need to change how you deal with difficult people?

Learning how to deal with difficult people sounds a bit grim but it’s really a lot of fun. Here is why...


Jennie Marshall | 10 January 2013

Learning how to deal with difficult people sounds a bit grim but it’s really a lot of fun. Here is why...

Everyone has someone who 'bugs' them or 'pushes their buttons'. And, when they think long and hard about it, what bothers people most is actually something they really don't like about themselves. There are lots of ways to have fun with this and learn a lot at the same time without navel-gazing.

What I like best about the approaches we use is that it isn't about coping with jerks. Why settle for coping? It doesn't really change anything.

Here at QA we run specific courses around dealing with conflict such as Understanding People and Conflict and Manage Conflict and Difficult Situations . Dealing with difficult people pops up on the official agenda in some courses, and on the unofficial agenda in many others.

So think about your difficult relationships with others - do you want to change something?

Good. Then here are a few pointers that I hope will help.

1. What really drives your blood pressure north?

Identify the triggers are that push your buttons by thinking about past experiences in which your 'favourite' person finally got to you.

What did they do?  Is it different to why it bothered you? Simply identify their actual behaviour. Was it the way they approached you? Looked at you?  How did they look at you? Maybe it was a certain voice quality or tone of voice?

2. How did you react?

Did you immediately blame them for how you felt?  Did you act distracted or quickly find a distraction? Fail to acknowledge what's really going on? When they do their 'special' thing, what did you do in response?

3. What do you want from yourself? 

What's the very best you can bring to the situation? Regardless of what they did, what would you do to be delighted with yourself after the interaction?

4.  What do you really want from them? 

Yes, I know the answer you'll be shouting: "Stop doing the stuff that annoys me!"

Not going to happen. So, think about this relationship the way the Seven Seas people do on their vitamin product labels. What is the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of behaviour you can hope for and accept? Then start expecting nothing more.

5.  Has someone else learned a way to deal with this person?

How do they do it? Who might know how to do it! Describe your situation in a way that combines "behaviour-then-how-I-feel." No need to dump on the offender; besides, it makes you less attractive and less of a good candidate for help.

When you've reached a point where you have an approach, use it. We train our muscle memories to play tennis, golf, and other sports in ways that become unconscious. You can train your nervous system in the same way. Think about this: if you do just one thing differently you may change the entire pattern.

Most importantly: life is not what happens to us. It's how we respond to what happens to us.

And you are in charge of your responses.

Jennie Marshall
QA Learning Expert: Leadership, Management and Business Skills

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QA Training | Jennie-marshal

Jennie Marshall

Learning Programme Director (Enterprise and Outsource Services)

Jennie Marshall is an award winning learning professional (Winner of the 2016 Learning Performance Institute, Learning Professional of the Year Bronze Award), who joined QA in 2010 as a Learning Consultant in the Leadership, Management and Business Skills team. She has gone on to progress through various positions to her current role of Learning Programme Director where she now designs, develops and manages the delivery of end to end learning programmes. She is an experienced and dedicated learning professional, with expertise including management, leadership and talent, and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has a proven track record of delivering blended, multi modal learning programmes using Learning Management System platforms and in a more traditional face to face setting, is at home with small and large audiences. She is a proven developer of people and is accredited in the use of a variety of tools including Strength Deployment Inventory®, Emergenetics®, Hogan®, Prism® and Worldsview™ as well as being an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner and Kirkpatrick Certified Professional (Bronze).
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