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How to Manage Difficult People

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Posted 26 April 2013 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with the training of your team leaders and managers.

The art of properly managing difficult people

Sometimes you have to manage difficult people.
Managing difficult people will mean that you have to manage emotions.
That may mean managing your own emotions and it may mean that you must manage the other person's emotions.
But the most important thing is that you must manage your own emotions.

If you are unable to manage your own emotions, i.e., if you cannot stop yourself from brimming over with anger, or embarrassment, or upset, or frustration, whenever certain events occur or at the sight of other peoples actions, then you have no hope of managing external events or other people.

If you are able to control your mind and emotions, and you can stop yourself from losing your cool, and you are able to maintain your emotional balance, throughout the whole engagement, then you are in a strong position to manage the emotions of the other person.

So now, let us discuss the primary factor.

How can you control your own emotions, during a conflict situation?

First point. Decide to!

Decide to control your emotions. Do not allow yourself the dangerous luxury of reacting instinctively and immediately to what the other person says to you.
Instead tell yourself, in advance of the meeting, that you will retain full control of your mind, tongue and face.
So, you won't get angry or too upset, you won't say the wrong thing, and you won't pull funny faces.

Second point. Recognise that your thoughts are the cause of your emotions; not the outside event.

Your emotions are a product of your thoughts. They are not a product of anything else.
In other words, in the final analysis, nobody can ""Make you angry"". You make yourself angry when someone acts in a certain way.
Nobody can ""Make you scared"". You make yourself scared when someone acts in a certain way.
Nobody can ""Make you feel offended"". You make yourself offended when someone acts in a certain way.
Traffic lights don't make you angry. You make yourself angry when you a forced to stop by traffic lights.

Conflict Management

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Conflict is inevitable, because people disagree. Therefore, you must be able to handle conflict situations effectively. You must know how to be assertive, clear and professional (not emotional, upset and angry) whilst in conflict. If you want to learn more on how to achieve this, please click here to see our conflict management training.

Therefore, it is always factually wrong to begin any sentence by saying: ""You make me feel so angry when .....

It is wrong to begin any sentence by saying: ""You make me frustrated, when you ....
It is bad tactics to begin any sentence by saying: ""You make me upset, when you .....

Why is it wrong and why is it bad tactics?

It is wrong for the reason already stated. They cannot make you feel anything. Because, you, are the source of your own emotions.

It is bad tactics because, whenever you say to another: ""You make me feel, (such and such)"", you are giving away your power, and self-control, and handing it over to your opponent.

Whoever has the power, also has the control.

If I tell you, that you have the power to upset me, to the degree to which that is true, is the degree to which I hand over control of my emotions over to you. I am telling you that; my emotions are now dependent on what you decide to do or say.

Now, imagine you are facing a person who wants to upset you, and he says something harsh to you. And you tell him, ""I find what you are saying most upsetting!""

What will he be thinking?

Are you making your position tactically better or worse, by telling him how upset his words are making you?

Worse.
A lot worse.
So don't do it.
Don't do it because.

It isn't true; (because your emotions are a product of your thinking, not his words or actions).
It is bad tactics to say it (because you are telling him exactly what he wants to hear: that he is scoring points against you).

Third point: talk about your opponent's behaviour, not your feelings.

To illustrate this, look at the following monologues. They represent what could be said in the same set of circumstances. The first one is what I consider to be the wrong way of wording it, and the second one is the better way.

Your job is to notice the differences.

  1. Steve you really make me angry. You have been standing around moaning about how busy you are for ages. Not only are you not doing anything, but you are disrupting the work of others. Why don't you stop complaining and get on with your work. You are totally unprofessional.
  2. Steve, for the last 15 minutes I have heard you talking to Jon about how busy you are, and how much work you have in your tray. Instead of that would you please, go back to your desk, figure out your top priority task and concentrate on that for a while?
  1. Roger, I don't like the way you are talking to me. I find your manner quite threatening and you are making me feel nervous. I think you are acting most inappropriately and unfairly. How do you think it makes me feel when you shout at me like that?""
  2. Roger, you are using a very loud voice and you are pointing your finger at me as you speak.

If you want to talk to me about this issue that is fine, but you must talk to me in a normal voice and you are going to have to keep your hands down. No pointing. Keep your hands down and speak to me in a normal manner. Okay?

You can see that the second version in each case is better.

It is better because:
It is worded more accurately.

There is no reference to the speaker's feelings. (No suggestion that the speaker has been emotionally rattled).
There is no negative opinion being expressed by the speaker (which means that it is more likely to take the heat out of the situation.)
It is a safer, more objective, more logical, more specific, more professional way of dealing with the difficult person.

Your homework is to digest the following points and put them into practice consistently for 100 years.

Decide to control your emotions.

Recognise that your thoughts, not the outside events, are the cause of your emotions;.
Recognise that It is bad tactics to say to another: ""You make me feel, such and such"", because you are giving away your power and yourself control and handing it over to your opponent.

Talk about your opponent's behaviour, not your feelings.

Use this safer, more objective, more logical, more specific, more professional way of dealing with the difficult person.

Thank you.

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