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Dealing with Difficult People – 10 Ways to Deal with 10 Types of Behaviour

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

Dealing with Difficult people – 10 ways to deal with 10 types of behaviour

We all have experiences of what constitutes difficult people at work, or perhaps more correctly, what difficult behavior is.

Firstly, it is important to understand that there is no universal definition of “difficult behaviour” as what is seen as difficult by one person may have no negative effect on another.

There is no objective agreement as the effects remain subjective and sometimes transient.

It is, thus, difficult to give a solution for dealing with patterns of behavior that can be viewed as annoying or negative, as each of us react in different ways and interpret things differently, which has a knock-on effect as to the way that we manage “difficult” people.

Let’s first look at ten behavior patterns or personality traits that we are all, in some way at least familiar with – you may recognize at least a few of these :

1. The Dominator – This person is the loudest in the room, talks over other people. This person is forceful in putting forward their opinions and points of view, riding roughshod over those who are of a meeker or weaker disposition.

2. The Underhander – This person spends their day in spin, spreading rumours and taking snipes at people. They like to rally people against others.

3. The Moaner – There is never anything good that does or will happen that will make their lot any better. they pass their time nit-picking and complaining about everything – there is either too much work or not enough, but they have something to complain about all of the time.

4. The Actor – This person thinks they know everything and never lets a lack of knowledge or skill get in the way of them telling everyone about their limitless well of knowledge or how they would do things. The problem is that when push-comes-to-shove, there is very little to work with.

5. The Exploder – This is actually a time bomb waiting to go off at any time in a any circumstance, people walk on eggshells around this person in fear.

6. The Negator – The end is nigh! No matter what happens to them or around them, they are convinced that the result can only be negative and they will try to convince everyone around them of this.

7. The Houseplant – This person gives nothing away – they are completely inert, showing no signs of emotion, no feedback, no information, whether verbally or non-verbally – they just use space that a plant could equally fill.

8. The Know all – This person knows 110% of anything that is useful. They so much that it isn’t worth their time listening to others, and this they do admirably, but often the job ends up either not getting done or is executed badly.

9. The Sage – This is the wise person who thinks deeply about everything before doing anything. They will never give a direct answer, but will think about things. A yes is never a ‘yes’ but more of a “well that’s one way of looking at it” and a no is often a “Well, we need to look carefully at that one”. The problem is that decisions are rarely, if ever taken, but happen through the natural course of events – the decisions just happens but is not taken, leaving nobody accountable for the success or failure.

10. The Baby Bird – This person is often viewed by some as being positive. they always say ‘yes’ to whatever is asked of them, especially if the request comes from management. The upshot is that they take on much more than they can physically do, end up producing poor quality work, cannot respect deadlines and often are unable to carry out their normal workload.

This looks a lot like pigeon-holing behaviours, which I guess it is, but at least it helps to identify what is causing problems in the workplace, which at times is so impalpable that it can be difficult to identify what is provokes imbalance and interpersonal problems.

If we agree that behavior traits can be categorised, we need to be able to deal with them in different ways and in different contexts and situations – nothing is set in stone and permanent.

After having identified the behavior patterns it is then important to examine our own behaviors and attitudes, which may in fact be acting as a trigger for any difficult behavior that we may be faced with.

There could also be certain attitudes that we have to certain behaviours which render them difficult.

There are certain questions that we should attempt to answer before being able to manage or tackle what we see as difficult behaviours.

Difficult for who?

Why is the behavior difficult?

In what way does the behavior manifest itself?

If you can answer the above questions and come to a conclusive answer, you are now armed to manage the person and their behavior.

How do I react to the difficult behaviour?

How does the difficult behavior affect my attitude to the “difficult” person?

Does my attitude trigger the behaviour?

Does the way I react to the bahaviour trigger it off?

One of the preconceptions of NLP states that all behavior is positive.

Taken at face value this is pretty difficult to understand and agree with and would lead us to believe that certain crimes, such as murder are positive.

In fact the idea is that the behaviour, even though it could be ostensibly or overtly negative, has a positive intention for the person displaying the behavior.

The trick afterwards is to discover what the intention is, this may be difficult to accept, judging from the list above – that said let’s have a look at ten ways that you can react :

1. As we mentioned above, have a close look at yourself and ensure that you are not at the root of the difficult behaviour, either through your attitude or your reactions – is it a chicken-and-egg situation?

2. If you need to meet it head-on, which may be a good strategy in some circumstances, do so calmly, objectively and in private. Do not speak about generalisation or labels, talk about what you perceive or feel and look for solutions “You are”, “You always..”, “You never …” etc. Talk about real facts without going into emotive aspects and start with “I feel…”, I see…”,  ”I perceive …” etc.

3. Never confront the person in public, unless you have complete mastery of the situation and a very good reason for doing so. Ganging up with others or forcing a potentially humiliating situation will get you nowhere fast. After all it may be a just you own subjective perception that has an effect on you, and you alone – the risks are high here, so handle with care.

4. If a face-to-face meeting with the “difficult” person is getting you nowhere, seek out a mediator, a person that you both are happy with, try not to impose this, it will work better if the choice of person is the result of a joint decision. In this way, you both become stakeholders in the resolution of any differences that you may have.

5. If the difficult behavior persists, and if it is practically possible, try to reduce the contact that you have with the person, whilst not avoiding them – ostrich-politics rarely bears any fruit.

6. Communicate in the best way that you can. Be aware of any attitudes that you may have that could reveal non-verbal or verbal communication. Try to avoid written communication where possible, as this can be very risky in any tense or risk situation, where the interpretation by the receiver of the communication is out of the control of the transmitter of the message.

7. Attempt to discover why they are behaving in a certain way (refer to the above) – Is there anything you can do to change the situation? Is there anything that you can stop doing that could change the situation?

8.Identify what the “difficult” behavior is. take a step back and try to see it in a different light. Often a turn of the kaleidoscope can produce a completely different pattern.

9. As mentioned above, never ignore the person or treat them as though they do not exist – you will be in a situation, where you are transferring negative behavior onto the person, which will solve nothing – two negatives do not always make a positive!

10. Change the way you react to the person’s behavior – if you change the way you react then there could be a shift in the way that they react – something will change.

We are all, at some point, difficult people, dependent on dispositions, contexts, situations, personalities and perspectives – it only takes the smallest trigger to fall into difficult behaviours.

Active and empathetic listening can help to uncover and identify the motives for “difficult” behaviour, keep in mind the NLP presupposition of intentions being for a positive outcome and attempt to discover what they are for the person.

Expecting difficult people to fall back, into, what you perceive as, the line, naturally, through your attitudes towards them could in fact transform you into their most difficult person.

There needs to be a shared effort to reach common-ground – a situation where all parties win, in order that the “difficult” behavior is effectively eradicated and relationships return to an even keel and remain that way.

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