Taking the High Road with Difficult People is in Your Own Best Interest

Taking the High Road with Difficult People is in Your Own Best Interest
Have you ever had an interaction with someone you considered “difficult”? When a person is being negative, mean, or disrespectful, it’s natural to feel upset or angry. While it may be hard to control your behavior in these situations, it’s important to remain calm, respectful, and professional at all times. Things will only get worse if you don’t!

Think It Through

Consider the following three questions when you encounter someone who seems to be difficult.

  1. Is the person really being difficult? Just because you’re annoyed with something a person has said or done doesn’t mean that he or she is being difficult. It’s important to look at the facts of the situation. If you react poorly to someone simply because you’re unhappy, YOU will actually be the difficult one!

  2. Why is the person acting like that? There are many reasons why people may not communicate with you as politely as you’d like. They may, for starters, feel tired, sick, distracted, upset, worried, busy, or stressed. In most cases, they’re not trying to upset you, so it’s always best not to take it personally.

  3. What will happen if I respond this way or that way? Carefully consider all of the different ways to deal with the other person, and how each option would affect the situation. A calm and positive approach almost always makes things better, while an angry or negative one makes things worse. Try not to let your emotions take over. Stop, think, and DECIDE what to do or say instead.

DOs and DON’Ts

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when dealing with a difficult person.

·       Make eye contact and listen closely to show that you care.
·       Use words and tone of voice that express kindness and understanding.
·       Give a compliment to help improve the other person’s mood.
·       Do the best job possible, even if you’re upset with someone (a customer, for example).
·       Politely stand up for yourself.
·       Focus on your own behavior, not the behavior of others.
·       Don’t take the rudeness personally. In most cases, people aren’t trying to hurt your feelings.
·       Don’t raise your voice or argue.
·       Don’t say things that will make the person even angrier, such as “calm down” or “shut up.”
·       Don’t think about negative situations over and over.
·       Don’t spend more time than necessary with people who constantly complain and/or speak badly of others.

While it’s tempting to respond to negativity or nastiness in the same way, it’s important to avoid doing so. This will only serve to create a hostile work environment, sour the mood of everyone involved, and adversely affect productivity. In addition, your supervisor will likely consider you at least partially responsibility for the fallout. This is NOT the impression you want to make at work!

For more tips and information about handling the challenging personalities in your life, be sure to check out our Difficult People archive!

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