Skill Tips - Dealing With Difficult People
A Learned Behavior
We all have our bad days where we may act unpleasant with our family, friends or co-workers but this is not our everyday personality. However, a surprising 5% of the population are considered to be unpleasant or difficult most of the time. This percentage means that you will most likely encounter a difficult person at home, work, socially or just about anywhere.
There are many types of negative personality traits that over a period of time can make us feel angry, frustrated, embarrassed and demoralized. Half of your day, everyday, could be spent trying to deal with the issues and problems caused by this one person if you allow it.
Keep in mind that these behaviors have usually been learned and perfected over a period of time as an effective way to manipulate those around them. No matter what the negative behavior traits are, this person will not only cause you misery but will wear you out if you let them.
The key to not letting this happen is to identify the basic difficult personality types and to have an understanding of what makes them tick. Understanding is half the battle. Once you learn the coping and managing skills, you will have more ability to get through the day relatively unscathed from those negative encounters.
Understanding the "Why" of the Behavior
Why are chronically difficult people this way? Although this article won't get in too deep on the psychological aspects of personality disorders, there are some very general characteristics all difficult people have in common. They are unhappy, insecure and have very low self-esteem. The more serious behaviors are those with the above traits with some anger and aggression mixed in.
They are very insecure and find a sense of security when they are able to manipulate those around them. These negative traits may usually be seen developing in childhood. Due to their lack of self esteem, they are unable to feel in control of their environment and cause havoc all around.
The key component of staying in control during an encounter is understanding. With knowledge and understanding comes the ability to apply the coping and managing skills necessary to remain calm, cool and collected while maintaining control of the situation.
Identifying Difficult Personality Types
The Chronic Complainer - Nothing is ever right with them and they are always gripping about everybody and everything. They much prefer to complain rather than being a part of and finding solutions.
The Know-It-All - They are usually arrogant and very self-opinionated. They really do not wish to hear anything anyone else has to say nor are the interested in anyone else's opinion. If they are challenged and stand corrected, they get very defensive even to the point of anger and aggression.
The Bully - Will belittle others and use different tactics of intimidation to manipulate others to get their way. The tactics may be those of hostility, threats, physical altercations and causing embarrassment to their victims.
The Dictator - They want to call all the shots and be in charge of everyone and everything. They are usually self absorbed and speak more than listen. They are not interested in any opinions that vary from what they think. They are usually brutally critical of any work or decisions made by anyone else.
The Passive - They never speak up or give opinions. They do not ever offer to share ideas and they are brutally indirect so you never know what they are thinking or where they stand.
The "Yes" People - They agree with everyone about everything; even if the don't. They agree to every commitment but usually can never deliver as promised. You can't trust them to follow-through.
The "No" People - Will always point out why something will not work. They will not agree with anyone about anything but are always the first to vocally criticize. They are usually very inflexible.
Coping and Managing Tips
The Chronic Complainer - When dealing with a chronic complainer always shorten your encounter with them. Be very specific in your communication and immediately verbalize and limit what their choices are:
- Do they want you to just listen to them, if so, set a time limit such as 4 minutes. Let them complain or vent and then be firm with them to move on.
- Are they looking for a solution from you, if so, be specific, clear and control the conversation not letting them find something else to complain about. Use firmness.
The Know-It-All - Save yourself from ware and tear by never arguing or trying to correct them. They will wear you down and you will never win. A coping skill is to "parrot" them. Whatever they say to you just paraphrase it and repeat it back to them. It tuns the table and they tire of it. An example would be, "if I understand you correctly, you said I should have added that to my presentation?" Sometimes when they hear and understand what they just said, they will try to clarify and back off.
The Bully - Always keep your composure when dealing with a bully. Keep everything as vague as possible and keep your answers short. Use any excuse to cut all exposure short. Project confidence with silence. Bullies are attention mongers. If they simply cannot engage or enrage you, they usually get bored. Simple pure confidence in yourself will usually throw a bully off guard. Sometimes you must seek outside intervention if there is any threat to your person.
The Dictator - This is their problem so do not make it yours. Don't fight or argue with them as you have the choice not to play their game. If you try to argue with them; they will win by simply wearing you down. Make it very clear where you stand.
The Passive - Be very clear and insist on whatever specific thing it is you need from them. Make it a point to initiate the conversation but force them to participate.
The "Yes" People - You may have to remind these people of their obligations and commitments. You must make sure that they have the capability to follow-through with commitments they have made. Be firm and let them know they are responsible for their actions or lack thereof.
The" No "People - Do not give them choices as they are infexible so it is best to lay down the rules. In all conversations be very specific. Keep the conversation short and to the point not allowing them the opportunity to argue or express negativity. As will most disfunctional behaviors, by engaging in an argument with them will only wear you out. Do not let them put you in that position.
Take a Deep Breath - Think a Happy Thought
In general, you must know what battles are worth fighting and when you should just let go. Never lose your composure with these personality types and do not allow them to draw you in; that is what they want. You have the ability to control that. Know to what degree you want to confront this person based on how important, or not, they are in your life. Always be specific about consequences and always follow through. Do not let the negative encounter bring you down.
Create a way to remain feeling positive about the rest of your day. Unhappy people want others to feel as unhappy as they do. You have the ability to control how you react to the situation. Take a minute or two to take a few deep breaths and find something to make you smile, confront the difficult person and situation head on with confidence and move on with your day.