Whether it is your boss, co-worker, customer, or the guy in the deli line, you will inevitably encounter difficult people. Sometimes this is simply due to personality clashes but more often it is due to our own perceptions, perspectives, past experiences, and expectations we place on others. This is nature, normal, and human. So how do we deal with them? How do we make people seem less difficult?
1. Look inward first, outward last
This is the hardest for most of us, myself included, to accept. We have our own version of reality and situations. We filter reality through our experiences and beliefs. That then creates the lens in which we view life. So if you are dealing with someone who historically is difficult, make sure you are going in with an open mind, heart, and with empathy already employed full swing.
Now please keep in mind difficult does not equate immoral or abusive behavior. Difficult are those you struggle to communicate with.
2. Remember, they are human too.
Just like you, everyone has their own perceptions, baggage, preconceived notions, and humanity. Customers who are opposed to policies may get difficult because they didn’t realize it was a policy and are now embarrassed at their mistake. We all have pride and ego which impacts communication more than anything.
3. Avoid blame and shame
There is responsibility and then there is blame. Responsibility is someone having a task and not completing said task. Blame is someone having a task and then using shame or put downs to highlight that failure.
4. Communicate facts, not feelings
It is very easy to get upset or frustrated when a task isn’t completed. It can feel as if you aren’t being respected or listened to. That again goes back to your own perceptions of reality and may not indicate fact. The less emotional you are, the less the other person will be as well. The more tension you place into an encounter, the more tension that will be increased by the other person.
Difficult bosses, clients, co-workers, and people in general are well…difficult. Keep in mind that you are also difficult to someone else. That perspective can help us remain humbled and more empathetic when engaging.