If you have ever encountered difficult people in your life, you know the struggle can be intense. However, using assertiveness and effective communication techniques can make all the difference.
On a daily basis, you may come into contact with many people whom you may not find friendly or approachable. From bosses and coworkers to rude Karens – here’s some advice for handling each one effectively.
1. Keep calm.
No doubt, some people can be difficult to manage. But that doesn’t have to mean you have to put up with their irritating behavior. Instead, it’s essential to know how to manage these situations and prevent them from causing you stress or emotional exhaustion.
When faced with someone who makes you feel uneasy or depressed, your brain sends an alert signal to the fight-flight-freeze center of your limbic system. As a result, more rational parts of your mind might not be accessible which could potentially lead to poor decisions.
To avoid such scenarios, the best approach is to stay calm and be aware of your reactions – no matter how difficult that may seem. Doing so will give you control over the situation and enable both parties involved in finding a mutually beneficial solution.
You can do this by avoiding the common trap of thinking about yourself and how you feel, which often leads to an uncomfortable position in the first place. Instead, start by considering what action you would like the other person to take.
Though it may seem silly, setting goals and working towards them helps keep you focused and on track. Furthermore, de-escalating the situation quickly helps avoid becoming emotionally overwhelmed.
If you’re dealing with a rude Karen, it may be beneficial to do a mental cost-benefit analysis on the relationship before getting involved. This will enable you to decide whether it’s worthwhile for both of you to stay or if it’s best to part ways. It will also enable you to establish boundaries and adhere to them consistently.
2. Ask for their opinion.
When dealing with a difficult person, it’s essential to remember that they may be going through their own difficulties. Rather than trying to alter them, try to gain insight into why they act the way they do.
By employing the Socratic method, you can encourage someone who is difficult to engage to consider what is truly going on by asking pointed questions that force them to consider alternative perspectives. Doing this helps you get to the core issue and reclaim control over the conversation.
Mark Lesser, a Zen teacher and executive coach who works with clients like Google and Facebook, suggests asking open-ended questions as a way to stay focused on the underlying issues driving someone’s behavior. By addressing the core problem at hand, you can help the difficult person see themselves in your perspective and develop more empathy for their situation.
Grenny recommends using your voice during these conversations as a way to regain control of the conversation and take back control. Speak slowly with an even tone to soothe anyone feeling overwhelmed, she notes.
You can also ask them how they would handle the situation if they were in your place. Doing this will help you decide whether or not it is wise to proceed with your plans.
If you don’t observe any improvement in the way your coworker behaves after having a conversation, it could be time to escalate matters to your manager. Explain how this difficult person is impacting your productivity and what steps you have taken so far to address it.
3. Don’t be defensive.
Defensiveness is a learned behavior that can be difficult to break. It may cause relationships and your personal development to suffer as well.
People who display defensive behavior often do so out of fear or an urge to avoid conflict. It may also be the result of past experiences such as abuse or neglect.
Though dealing with someone who is acting defensively can be challenging, there are steps you can take. The most important thing is trying to understand why they are responding in this way and finding ways to modify their behaviour.
You can do this by trying to understand why they are feeling defensive and what drives their motivations.
For instance, if someone is being defensive due to feeling attacked, you can demonstrate compassion and respect by refraining from making judgmental remarks. Doing this will make them feel less judged and thus less likely to react in a defensive way.
Finally, you can also observe body-language cues to determine whether someone else is reacting defensively. For instance, if they seem to be looking away or maintaining an open stance, this might suggest they are showing some signs of anger.
Management of difficult people who are defensive can be challenging, but with some practice and patience you can learn how to handle them in a manner that creates trust and creates an inviting workplace atmosphere. By following these three steps, you help your team members remain calm and focused during conversations. As a result, they’ll be more inclined to communicate positively and constructively with you, making working together easier as one cohesive unit.
4. Set a limit.
When dealing with difficult people, the best approach is to set boundaries. Establishing healthy and reasonable limits will protect your dignity and respect while giving you space to focus on your own needs and priorities instead of sacrificing them for others.
When dealing with difficult people, the first boundary to establish is your time. If they’re disregarding you or rudely answering your phone calls, set limits that respect and value your time. This can be done through a calm but direct approach that emphasizes its significance and how much you value it.
Difficult people often have personal struggles that are contributing to their difficulty. You can detect this by paying close attention and trying to understand what is causing them distress.
Once you’ve identified their issue, try to see if they would be open to discussing it and seeking assistance. Doing this may give them a sense of relief and make managing their negative behavior much simpler for both of you.
If they won’t talk about it, it could be time to move on to someone else. Although this can be challenging, doing so will allow you to focus on what matters most in your life and not have to deal with the frustration that comes from dealing with difficult behaviors.
This tactic can be especially successful when dealing with people who won’t listen. It demonstrates your priorities and doesn’t force them into yours, and it breaks the cycle of negativity that often develops when there is someone in your life who doesn’t take you seriously.
5. Don’t let them get away with it.
Are you dealing with a friend, spouse or loved one who seems like an inflexible Karen? These people may be trying to express their emotions in an unreasonable manner and it may be best if both of you stay calm. Instead of becoming defensive or emotionally involved in the situation, try and focus on finding ways to make things better for both of you rather than taking it personally.
If the issue continues to persist, it might be time for you to take a break from them. Although this may be difficult, remember that they don’t deserve your time or energy if they’re constantly misbehaving. Don’t put yourself through unnecessary stress and anxiety; set limits on how much tolerance you can tolerate before cutting ties with them permanently.
Another strategy for staying calm when dealing with Karen is by drawing upon your personal power. This could be as easy as thinking back on an experience that made you feel strong and confident; then close your eyes and bring that feeling into the present by imagining this positive memory as you interact with Karen. While it may feel unnatural at first, if you can develop this mindset it will allow you to remain composed in challenging circumstances.
Karens can be difficult to deal with, but with persistence and practice you can learn how to deal with them effectively. These techniques will stop Karen from making your life miserable and help improve the situation for both of you.