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Using Reason to Handle Difficult People

Using Reason to Handle Difficult People

Using Reason to Handle Difficult People

There is always a lot of interest in the subject of "how to handle difficult people".

It seems there must be a lot of difficult people out there, since people attend courses all the time on how to handle them.

It is interesting to note that all the people who attend the Handling Difficult People course, are never the difficult ones. The difficult people are always "the others".

My delegates often say, "My job would be fine if it wasn't for the others!" Difficult people may be defined as "all those people who don't see things my way".

You'll find that the people who are the most difficult, are the people who are least like you.

If the other person shares all the same ideas as you, then you find them to be easy. And to the degree that they do NOT share the same ideas as you, then they are difficult.

For example: If you are devoutly religious and he is a staunch atheist; if you are a socialist and he believes in capitalism; if you like modern art and he thinks it is trash; if you like modern music and he prefers Mozart; if you believe in keeping foreigners out of the country and he believes that immigration is fantastic for the economy. If you think that new technology is threatening jobs and he thinks new technology creates many more new jobs; if you think the future looks bleak and he thinks the future looks bright; if you think we should stop spending and he thinks we should invest all we can in robotics; if you are a vegetarian and he eats meat by the tonne; If you are an environmentalist and he likes to go fox hunting - then it is a sure bet that you two people would find each other difficult.

People who are very different from us are apparently, difficult. We prefer to be with people who are like ourselves. Birds of a feather, flock together.

But, in a sense we are all unique. There is nobody on the planet exactly like you. Even genetic twins have differences.

Psychologists, sociologist's politicians and others, love to break people into sets. There are many ways that we break people into sets:

  • Man v woman.
  • Native v foreigner.
  • East v west.
  • Young v old.
  • Muslim v infidel.
  • Catholic v protestant.
  • Manchester United v Manchester City.
  • North v south.
  • Black v white.

All of these distinctions make the other side seem to be a different tribe to us and to that degree, difficult.

Is there a way to bind us together rather than create ideological wedges that drive us apart? Yes.

The thing that binds us is the fact that we are all humans; and that humans have the faculty of reason.

Reason as the binding thread that can hold us together

Mankind is the rational animal. Reason is mankind's means of survival. Humans all share a single and unique trait. We are all capable of rational thought. If you can read this you are a rational animal.

To quote Ayn Rand:

"Man's essential characteristic is his rational faculty. Man's mind is his basic means of survival - his only means of gaining knowledge... Man's mind allows long-range planning and thinking. It enables such long-range planning as required for farming, hunting, and tool making. These endeavours require the ability to conceptualize long-term cause and effect chains. "I need to make a spear tonight so I can hunt tomorrow and have food for the next 7 days."

To the extent that you use reason as your method of judgement in knowledge and action, you will survive and flourish. To the extent that you ignore or evade reality, you will suffer and die.

It is very important to note that survival by reason requires the freedom to act according to your reason. This is why men do not thrive under coercion, and cannot survive when they are subject to the initiation of force by others."

Treat everyone you meet reasonably

Despite the differences that exist between people - and despite the difficulties that these differences create - there is a common bond upon which we can all agree: reason.

I have found that if you wish to get on with difficult people, then appeal to their sense of reason. Treat all problems, and treat all people according to the principles of reason.

Assume the other person is a rational being

  • Always try to explain your thoughts in a logical manner.
  • Don't use threats and don't use your intensity of emotion to try to persuade others. They will only increase their intensity of emotion to persuade you back!
  • Make an appeal to the facts and make a logical evaluation of the facts.

Never treat people unreasonably

  • Don't make unreasonable demands. Don't give unreasonable deadlines.
  • Don't speak to people as if you think they are stupid or foolish.

Always treat people as if they are, primarily, intellects of the first order

I find that if you look into their eyes and speak to the person's rational mind, his/her INTELLECT, and ignore the fact that the other person may by different to you in other ways, then you can make good progress with 99% of the population.

If the other person has lost his mind, or is drunk, or is on drugs, or is insane, (which amounts to the same thing, since they all mean the loss of the rational mind) then I move away from this person and don't deal with him or her.

Treat people as if they were primarily rational intellects of the first order.

This is how you can be a non-difficult person and how you can best handle so-called difficult people.

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Conflict Management Training

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.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Conflict Management and Handling Difficult People

  • Grievances at Work
    Grievances at work are generally caused by what someone said or didn't say, or what a person did or didn't do. Obviously, prevention is preferable to trying to sort out a grievance. But what if you already have an issue. Try this six-step method...
    Read Article >
  • Fixing Bad Relationships at Work
    When faced with resistance at work, it is important to remain clear, rational and positive. When you express negative emotions verbally, it is counterproductive. Avoid venting frustrations onto others by maintaining composure and positivity.
    Read Article >
  • De-escalation Skills
    De-escalation of a difficult situation is vital, in order to avoid it becoming a crisis or conflict. Take a look at these de-escalation techniques you should master that will allow you to take control of a situation and defuse a potential conflict.
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  • Dealing With Conflicts of Interest Within a Team
    All employees should be working together to achieve the organisation's ultimate aim. Any conflicts of interest within teams must be resolved quickly. So what is the best method for dealing with conflicts within a team?
    Read Article >
  • Management skills training - Giving constructive criticism
    Giving constructive criticism Giving constructive criticism is one of the most important skills for the leader/ manager. Constructive criticism is criticism of a person's behaviour, work performance or idea, which is perceived by the receiver, to be more like help, or friendly guidance, rather than "a telling off". Constructive criticis...
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