Difficult People and How to Handle Them

Learning to deal with difficult people is like learning a foreign language.  It’s well, shall we say, difficult? But as challenging as it is to develop fluency in conflict situations, it’s just as hard, if not harder, to learn to detach yourself emotionally from the outcome.

It helps to think about it this way: drama is a childhood phenomenon.  So whenever you are faced with hysteria, irrational thinking or out-of-control emotions, know that there is simply a child in the room – a fully-grown adult child, but a child nonetheless.

See, underneath difficult personalities there is an unhealthy, undeveloped, unsatisfied ego who is acting out. Since these egos are remnants of childhood, normal, rational thinking does not apply.  They live to ensnare you into their reality when something has happened to make them feel insecure.  But, it’s a time warp.  Do not go! If you do, you’ll end up mired in another person’s emotional environment that is rooted in the past.

Of course, not being privy to that past, you have no idea how the person is allowing his or her ego to distort the present.  All you can do is manage it from your perspective the best you can.  The key is to stay steady and not get drawn in.

Easier said than done, I know.

Chances are, if you’ve been in the workforce for any amount of time, you have crossed paths with some of these ego-laden “characters.”   Here are some things you can do to help manage the conversation and the person to whom you are trying to talk.

The Ticking Time Bombs

Think Tasmanian devil. These folks are volatile, inconsistent, and unpredictable. They fly off the handle easily and feel empowered by making others walk on eggshells. They stifle free dialogue by shutting other people down, and they kill the possibility of having productive conversations by breeding insecurity in their relationships.

  • The Tyrant rants and raves and makes no sense.
  • The Ogre is grumpy and unpleasant and snaps for no reason.
  • The Bully derives pleasure from pushing other people around.
  • The Loose Cannon is quiet and pent up but abusive when set off.

How to Deal:

Weather the storm. Remain calm no matter what.  If you ever heard a story about what to do should you find yourself face-to-face with a lion in the wilderness, you know your only chance at survival is to stare it down, eye-to-eye, and remain still until it is convinced by your lack of fear that you are not the perfect prey.

What to Say:

“Whoa, hold on,” and then don’t be afraid to ask the Ticking Time Bomb to simply stop. Request that he or she refrain from snapping, bullying, abusing, ranting, raving, etc. . .  State that you don’t do well under attack and that you would like the conversation to progress in a mutually respectful way.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be. On many occasions, I have said to people who felt the need to push me around, “Please don’t bully me. I don’t like it.” It works!

The Centers of the Universe

These people have a bad case of me, myself and I myopia. They only see themselves and have a distorted view of their own importance in the world. Communicating with them effectively is a challenge because they don’t listen, unless, of course, you are feeding their egos, which is more about them. They filter what they want to hear, taking what feeds their egos and rejecting anything that doesn’t fit into their delusion that the world revolves around them.

  • The Narcissist cannot tolerate being wrong and brings an unreasonable sense of entitlement to conversations and self-focus to relationships.
  • The Power Monger is interested in compensating for his or her own feelings of weakness and inferiority by acquiring power through status, people, and things to feel more important.
  • The Control Freak needs to control not only conversations but people, too, in order to feel good about him or herself.
  • The Intimidator wants to establish his or her superiority, often by instilling fear so that others won’t speak up.

How to Deal:

Don’t take the bait. Centers of the Universe will have you as twisted as they are in no time if you play into the game that they are playing with themselves. Stay on track and do not allow yourself to be reduced.

What to Say:

Nothing. Ignore the bravado, and don’t engage in their histrionics – just stick to the facts.

The Buzz Kills

These guys and gals are negativenegativenegative! They refuse to explore alternative possibilities or open their minds. They obstruct important dialogue from occurring because they are stuck in a world of small-mindedness.

  • The Naysayer says that everything won’t work and is not interested in anything new and/or improved.
  • The Know-It-All always has to be right and thinks he or she knows how things will turn out regardless of whether it’s true or not.
  • The Curmudgeon is ill-tempered, full of resentment, and stubborn.
  • The Ignoramus is not open to suggestions from others and is not open, period.

How to Deal:

Ask questions. Every time a Buzz Kill tries to put the kibosh on something, try to find out why he or she feels the need to choose failure over success before even trying.

What to Say:

“Why must you put a damper on everything?” Point out how their pessimism is grounded in nothing substantive and that whether they know it or not, they’re making everything harder than it has to be, including trying to have a conversation.

The Slippery Sly Ones

Watch out for this group. They are underground operators. They undermine healthy dialogue and erode trust by feigning authenticity and operating under false pretense.

  • The Dissembler conceals the facts and his or her true intentions.
  • The Skulk is evasive and shirks responsibility.
  • The Conniver schemes, lies, and cheats to get ahead, all the while making pretend to be on the same side you are on.
  • The Manipulator bends the truth, twists words, and hides his or her motives as a means to serve his or her own end.

How to Deal:

Call them out on it. You have to, because when the ego knows you see it, it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. By merely revealing your awareness of its presence, you will often shame that part of the Slippery Sly Ones into minding its manners.

What to Say:

“Something doesn’t add up here.” Or, you could say something like, “This does not feel kosher . . . or cool . . . or copacetic . . . or right.”  Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to tell someone what you think and how you feel.

The Suck-Ups

We’ve all known our fair share of these. It’s their insincerity that makes it so difficult to communicate with them. They’ll “yes” you to death in lieu of having a meaningful conversation.

  • The Blowhard is stuck on him or herself and full of useless self-serving jabber.
  • The Sycophant seeks favor by flattering people.
  • The Brownnoser is motivated by approval and goes out of his/her way to impress those he or she deems important.

How to Deal:

Make it clear that you would prefer not to have a conversation that consists only of agreement and accord.

What to Say:

“Please stop. . . .” Point out that they don’t need to work so hard to look good and that it is infringing on your ability to move forward with them in the conversation.

The Oblivious

This bunch is really out there. They exist in their own reality, which is unrecognizable to almost everyone else. The problem is that real issues aren’t addressed while they detract from the clarity needed for constructive conversations.

  • The Dreamer is not only not in reality, but in denial most of the time, too.
  • The Flake has trouble connecting what he or she says with what he or she does, and as a result, conversations with him/her seem as though they never happened.
  • The Drama Queen blows everything out of proportion and creates drama for attention.

How to Deal:

Have the conversation and cross your fingers that the Oblivious “get it.” Give it your best shot and document everything that is said because when it comes up again, the Obliviouswill have no idea what you’re talking about.

What to Say:

“Snap out of it.” You can ask them to try to step out of their own reality and face the facts as they are, but don’t hold your breath.  All you can do is try.

The Juveniles

These kids trapped in adult bodies are more draining than a marathon. They sap energy, waste time, and turn the workplace into a day-care center.

  • The Blamer never accepts responsibility for even the smallest, stupidest things and finds reasons to blame someone else.
  • The Whiner complains all the time about how everything but he or she is the problem.
  • The Excuser makes excuses for everything and is automatically defensive.
  • The Spoiled Brat pouts to get attention.
  • The Gossip stirs up trouble and wastes time being concerned with other people’s business.

How to Deal:

Point out specifically what is juvenile about their behavior. The best thing to do is express your amazement that such behavior exists in a professional, adult, work environment.

What to Say:

Tell them point-blank how unbecoming and inappropriate their behavior is.

The preceding is a reprint of an article featured in Psychology Today by  Author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations, Donna Flagg, who said it better than I could have. Stretch your mind and your body by visiting Donna’s site at Lastics.com

Communication in Difficult Circumstances

Since we are sharing our planet with other people, all of whom are on their own individual journeys, many, if not all of them, are dissimilar in many ways in comparison to you. If you have chosen to start thinking for yourself and separate yourself from the masses, then you are becoming even more unlike them. Yet, the fact remains, we are all here, doing the best we can with what we have and must find way to use our words to bless those around us.

No matter where you are in the river of life, you need to find ways to integrate and communicate and play well with others. You must navigate and maintain a variety of levels of relationships. The key in maintaining effective relationships is finding ways to communicate and connect with others in such a way as to thrive effectively among the landscape of this life. A landscape sprinkled with a wide variety of opportunities to interact and commune with others in your family, with your friends, community, while pursuing your vocation, delivering your message, while sharing your skills and abilities, giving your gifts and blessing others.

How you respond to those who will challenge you, berate or threaten you will depend on your ability to communicate well and choose your words wisely, or to refrain from speaking altogether in a moment that would not benefit from your spoken word.

Find ways to find a place of love and peace within yourself, regardless of facing insurmountable odds or managing difficult situation or people, while maintaining the wherewithal to control your emotions and words when others might have fallen to lesser vibrations of prideful conflict.

You will never be free from the emotional challenges that face others, but you can live and manage your life in such a way to minimize exposure to and the impact of these challenges. Try as you might, you will occasionally face situations where you find yourself in a difficult situation. In these moments, you might find some of these ideas helpful, such as

Firstly, avoiding the lure of defending yourself, your ideals or beliefs about certain emotionally charged subjects, like religion or politics. You are not here to defend your beliefs or challenge anyone else’s. You honor everyone’s right to find their own way, and expect the same respect in kind, that is all. Listen, if you like, but do not debate. Debating only widens the gap between polarities, only love closes the gap. If it conflict looks unavoidable, leave the room, or otherwise excuse yourself or find another place to be.

Don’t attempt to change another person’s point f view, do not challenge their belief system, this will only trigger their base emotions crating in them the need to bolster up and defend themselves in a fight or flight reaction. In the fight-fueled combat, things can get very dicey, dark and evil, for at the most instinctual level, they will defend their position or fight (even if metaphorically) with their life’s blood. Your battle is not on the playing field of others, your battles are fought within.

If someone is in the habit of presenting you with conflict or urging you to defend yourself, do not fall in their trap or challenge to a duel. Some people derive a sense of power by causing others to falter or destroying them altogether. They will do whatever they can to throw you off track. If this is the case, find ways to establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself from such predatory abuse.

Above all live a live of tolerance, understanding that everyone’s world revolves around their own individual perspective and beliefs about how the world is. None of us has all the answers and we all are at various stages among our own quest in the pursuit of freedom, happiness and truth. Bless everyone at whatever stage they are and love them regardless of where they are on their journey, or what destination it appears they are enroute to. Do not measure your stage in comparison to anyone else’s. Every journey is a journey of one.

See only the good aspects of others, even if they are challenging or threatening you. Remember that their approach to you is based on a life of programming that has resulted in this attitude or outburst. It is likely that they are harboring a deep, dark past, and withholding emotions that has caused a chain-reaction, displaying itself in a moment of weakness. Do not pity them, but honor them for making it this far, and hope they find better ways to express themselves in the future. If not, bless them anyway.

Remember there are no good people or evil people, everyone is only seeing as they can through the eyes of the man or woman they have become, which is based on so much programming and life experience in varying degrees of positivity and negativity, every moment of every day is a constant struggle for survival, especially for the greater portion of our population. Love them, where they are.

Know your limits, and look for clues that it’s time to look for an exit. Better to avoid a battle than engage in it. For what good is it to risk your reputation or your well being, or to damage someone else’s? You have a higher ideal and calling. It is better not to engage, unless it is completely unavoidable.

Avoid finding the need to assign blame when you find yourself in difficult situations, and be gracious and kind even when facing someone who is enraged. Let them express themselves, and if it’s too much to bear, just walk away, loving them as you do so.

Sometimes a light-hearted sense of humor can break the negative state of an adversary. Some people are gifted with this mechanism of knowing a funny thing to say that is non-threatening but breaks the negativity enough to cause the other person to make adjustments to their tactic, possibly abandoning the conflict altogether.

Surround yourself with supportive, positive people to help you keep an even equilibrium in your social surroundings.

Life is a journey. Try to make the best of it you can by getting along with those around you. People are watching you. You may be the inspiration for others to try to get along with others in their lives too.

Loving first is always the best approach to any potentially negative situation.

How to Deal With a Jerk at Work

Whether you’re an employee, in management or a leader in an organization, occasionally you’re going to run into a co-worker or person who is fairly difficult to deal with or just a pain to try to work with. As in all relationships in life, every person (even the ones that appear to be somewhat lackluster) brings value to you and your organization. So, you’re much better off finding ways to manage this working relationship successfully by figuring out how to deal with a jerk at work.

One of my clients is the CEO of an organization with a manager who possesses a powerful personality, which is a daily challenge for the CEO. While the manager’s value to the organization is painfully obvious, so is the contrasting personality, placing him at odds with the CEO on a regular basis.

It appears that every time they try to do something significant, the personality conflicts create immense controversy (including heated arguments), full on arguments and displays of opposing emotional outbreaks falling just short of progressing to fisticuffs.

Trump: "You're fired!"
Trump: “You’re fired!”

On more than one occasion, there has been reasonable consideration that excluding the manager altogether by blurting out, “You’re fired!” and to send him packing. Though, as much as the CEO might feel like he’d rather let him go than deal with him, he concedes, “He is more good than bad,” and therefore is willing to do the work to embrace and empower his charge for the benefit of the greater good.

The CEO decided to use his own management skills to reach out to the manager with the thought that there must be something lying beneath the surface which makes the manager resistant to leadership. He thought, maybe if he could better understand the manager, his life, how he became the person he is today, there is a possibility there might be a degree of understanding or empathy for the manager. After all, aren’t we all just doing the best we can with what we have?

The next opportunity for them to square off came when the manager’s department was upside down and had more work than it could handle, even exercising his best (or worst) management skills and strong-arming the team could not save the day. The CEO knew this would be a difficult meeting, but rather than poise for a fight (as usual) the CEO placed two chairs in his office at 45 degree angles, instead or across from each other (confrontational) in an attempt to eliminate some of the pressure.

Instead of starting with the obvious challenge facing the organization, the CEO first honored the manager by thanking him for saving the day so many times before when facing what seemed to be insurmountable odds, then broke character, humbled himself and intimated his struggle as a young child with making his way to succeed against all odds. There was an implied invitation for the manager to respond quid pro quo.

Following the exchange of their personal stories, these two powerful individuals discovered they had more in common than they may have previously thought, and finding the common ground enabled them, together, to find a solution to the latest challenge.

The chemistry between these individuals is still confrontational at best, but by reaching out and connecting they have a newfound respect for each other and are able to work together through crisis situations. While they may never be the best of friends, they do form a powerful team, when pushing through their social differences to mutually making gainful strides.

This is how to deal with a jerk at work.

Let’s face it; we all have people that we get along with in the working environment better with some employees and co-workers than others. For those that rub us the wrong way, we ask ourselves, “What the heck is wrong with that person?”

You wonder, “How’d he get to be that way?” What makes him/her react, like that? Why is he/she so confrontational? And if you’re not mindful, you might consider resigning yourself not to care or get involved and avoiding this person altogether.

On the other hand, we still need to go through life in tandem with people like this, and chances are, if you tried to avoid them, someone else will come to take their place. Why? Because there is great learning to be had in finding common ground with others with whom you may not be well-suited for the greater good.

Here are some questions to ponder, the next time you become aware of someone who seems like a jerk, but there might be more to the story that you may not understand. Maybe ask,

Who is this person?

Not just the person you know if the working environment, but what is life like for him/her outside the confines of work? You might find this “jerk” engaging in recreational activities, volunteering their free time to help those less fortunate, working out, and embracing meditative or relaxing exercises. Try to see a more complete view of his/her life.

What does he/she want?

Even though they are difficult to deal with, what is it that they want to accomplish? Do they desire to be respected? Are they trying to establish independence or acknowledgement? Are they seeking attention, exercising control? You may find that you share similar goals but go about achieving them differently.

Why does he/she act/react like that?

If you can find out what lies beneath the surface of the way they do what they do, it may provide insight. Try not to take it as a personal affront. It has more to do with them than it does with you. Maybe, if you can understand their plight, you can exercise care and a bit of mentor ship, by gently reaching out and helping him/her understand or at least consider better ways to approach communication.

Be the Master

In any relationship, regardless of the conflict it may represent, the only thing you can truly control is yourself. So, proudly take the gauntlet and the high road to a better life by becoming the master of your own life and taking charge of the only half of the relationship that you have control over: You.

Don’t judge others for being incompatible. Instead, humble yourself, try to understand, reach out, or in extreme circumstances, change what you can (even if it means ultimately distancing yourself) and always seek to find the treasure hidden in any conflict.

Why?

Because if you don’t learn the lesson now, a new opportunity will present itself until you do.

Your journey is a magnificent one, full of excitement and drama, all for your benefit, if you so embrace it.