How To Handle Difficult People

certified high performance coaching chpc coaching communication Feb 28, 2021
Other people being jerks is on them, not you.
When someone else acts in bad faith, or with the intent to anger, it not on you to respond or get upset.  It is your responsibility to not react, get caught up being angry, or responding impulsively.
When you can keep cool, you are in control of the situation.  When you react emotionally, you make poorer choices and can cause damage to relationships, careers, and your well-being.
One time long ago, in corporate America, I had a teammate who wouldn't listen.  You'd make a suggestion, he'd argue with you and not do it.  He'd sit in meetings with you, and not pay attention.  That kind of stuff.
For a whole month, he and I were in meetings discussing some code I was working on that he wanted to use.  Each meeting we'd discuss how everything was broke, and how we were changing everything.  Every time he asked me about using my code, I'd remind him we were in the middle of a project that was rewriting it. 
So after a while he get's a bit passive agressive about how things are always broke.  Quips in meetings and the like.  On one particular day, he starts IMing me with statemens like "I guess I didn't get the memo thing were broke" - stuff like that.  Literally after a meeting we had just talked about why it was all broke and why it wasn't ready for prime time.
So I tell him there was no memo, he was in the meeting, and he can ask if he has more questions.  Direct, thinking this would cause a discussion to resolve whatever was going on.
I found out how wrong I was when he shows up at my office door, and start to yell profanities in my face.  I thought he was going to take a swing at me he was so livid.
What do you do in that situation?  I fought the urge to get back in his face, and calmly said we needed to talk with our manager.   So we find him, and start to talk it through.
After HR is involved and tempers cool, we still need to work with each other.  Eventually we were able to get back into a professional relationship. 
I'm proud that in that intense moment, I was able to keep cool and change how it could have ended up.  Looking back, I'm proud at how professional and non-reactive I was able to handle that situation with that tough guy.
That's the take away - handle difficult people in a way that you look back and feel proud and happy about how you reacted in that situation.  You can't change when people are angry or mean.  You can keep your self-respect in those situations. 
Five ideas to keep in mind when dealing with difficult people.
  • Mindset: You are not responsible for other people's emotions or reactions
  • Know your intended outcome
  • Try your best to communicate in the style most likely to reach them
  • Get support when things get heated
  • Be direct in communicating your point

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