10 steps for dealing with difficult people — from cantankerous coworkers to temperamental teenagers

9. Walk in their shoes. By not making assumptions, giving up expectations, asking questions and listening effectively, you can start to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

By not making assumptions, giving up expectations, asking questions and listening effectively, you can start to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

by Ray Dodd — 

They annoy us. Cause us trouble. Push our buttons. They are difficult people, and we seem to encounter them constantly: at work, at home and everywhere in between. What do we need to know to deal with the people who repeatedly irritate us? What do we do, in particular, if these difficult people are the ones we love the most?

Here are 10 useful tips to help you deal with difficult people.

1. Relinquish your need to be right. What you perceive may be correct, but protracted battles and arguments that go nowhere are all about who is right. Take action that supports your goal. Agree to disagree with respect. If you need to establish boundaries, do so but give up your need to be right. Why? Because getting along feels better than getting your way.

2. Do not assume anything. Whether you have known someone for a long time or you just met, you cannot ever know exactly how they bend their reality, moment to moment. Give up assuming you know why the other person did or said something. Ask questions; do not assume anything.

3. Let go of your expectations. Having expectations about who should do what and the way it should be done is a recipe for crisis. An expectation is an assumption about what is supposed to happen. We gave up assumptions in tip number 2, remember?

4. It is not personal. Everyone lives in a unique virtual reality created by his or her beliefs, experiences and agreements. You are the star of your life, but a minor character in everyone else’s movie. How they respond to you or react to you is not about you. Claim what is yours, but realize that no matter what anyone says or does, it’s not personal.

5. Listen effectively. Do you ever think about what you will say next while the other person is talking? Are you paying attention to what is being said or half-listening and filling in the blanks? In order to avoid conflict, listen and acknowledge the words of the other person. Recognizing that you hear and understand them can go a long way toward diffusing conflict.

6. Change the channel. All communication is by agreement. You choose to engage. Rather than argue or defend, if you don’t agree and don’t want to listen, move on and focus your attention on something else.

7. Make up another story. Let us say someone is difficult. No doubt about it. Everyone agrees. That perception may be accurate, but then what? Do you make up a story about what should happen and how they are supposed to be? It is your story and it evokes an emotional response. Does the emotion feel good to you? If not, make up another story.

8. Respect their story. Like you, the other person has their own story, a unique perception of how everything is. It is their story and they have a right to it. They deserve your respect, even if you totally disagree. Honor their story and don’t try to change it.

9. Walk in their shoes. By not making assumptions, giving up expectations, asking questions and listening effectively, you can start to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Each response they have is really about what they believe. The literal meaning of what they say may not be important. What is important is the belief behind their words. Once you see that, the conflict can begin to evaporate.

10. Give up the need to be right, again. What one person does to irritate you may not bother others. Is it possible you are the one being difficult? This tip is so powerful it bears repeating. To diffuse the conflict, give up your need to be right. Why? It’s simple: because it feels so good.

 

Ray Dodd is a master coach and mentor for individuals and businesses, and is the author of The Power of Belief. He is the founder of Everyday Wisdom and trains others in this process. ray@everydaywisdom.us or www.everydaywisdom.us.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 5, October/November 2005.

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