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Dealing with difficult people


Succeeding in a business environment, involves being able to deal with difficult people. This article aims to equip you with eight applicable and accessible techniques to help you respond well during confrontation and conflict in the work place.

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Be attentive

Conflicts that arise in the workplace are often because of employees feeling like a commodity rather a person. To avoid this make sure all of your colleagues receive one hundred percent of your attention when you communicate with them.

Make sure that your body language is welcoming and that you listen to everything that is communicated when you interact with them.

This should not only include paying attention to the verbal content but also involve paying attention to the non-verbal component of the communication.

Notice how your colleague talks, focusing on their voice tonality, the speed at which they talk, and their body language.

Being aware of every detail of your colleague’s communication allows you to understand their needs.

Arguably, through conscious and unconscious communicative patterns everyone expresses exactly what they want. By paying attention to these patterns you will always find the solutions to building long lasting rapport with everyone that you work with.

A trick to help you get into the habit of placing all of your attention on the individual you are communicating with is to imagine that you are painting them. This forces you to place all your focal resources on your subject.

Kindness, praise and compliments

One of the best ways to destroy hostile behaviours in the work place is to kill them with kindness.

By being positive towards those that create unrest, you work to diffuse their negative influence. It is only through attacking and becoming embroiled in the actions of difficult people that conflicts escalate.

By redirecting their attention towards positive comments and compliments away from any negative emotions, you remove the individual’s ability to feel bad.

Our focal systems are limited which means consuming your mind with things that make you feel positive, leaves very little room to feel negative.

In the workplace regularly compliment and praise potential trouble makers. It is often a good idea to be especially positive just before you suspect a conflict may arise.

If you can detect the build up of tension you can use your weapons of positivity to prevent the breakout of arguments beforehand.

It is very difficult to become angry towards someone that is being nice to you

Be honest with yourself and others

It is an overused cliché but, honesty really is the best policy. This approach serves as an effective way to deal with difficult people, and helps you keep a firm hold on your emotions.

Bottling things up makes it increasingly hard to deal constructively with difficult people.

Ruminating can be a highly damaging behaviour, causing you to blow personal issues out of all proportion.

By getting your concerns off your chest as soon as possible with the individuals in question you reduce the likelihood of things building up and eventually exploding into arguments.

A fantastic exercise that is often used in professional settings known as the ‘honesty group test’ will help you to cultivate an honest and open working environment:

Gather all of your colleagues in a group circle, and select the first participant. Take it in turns with the rest of your colleagues to go around one by one and invite them to express one positive and one negative trait that the first participant possesses. Repeat the procedure until everyone has had a turn at being the participant.

It is about how you say something not only the content of what you say

Only 7% of human communication is content driven, with 55% coming from one’s body language and 38% coming from voice tonality.

When you deal with difficult people it is important to make sure that your body language and your voice tonality are not confrontational.

Diffusing difficult situations should involve you using your voice tonality in a calm and relaxed manner. Slowing the rate at which you talk right down is also advised, as this helps to lead the difficult person to a state of calmness.

Body language is obviously very important, and it is mandatory that your body expressions are welcoming. Open arms, standing in an upright position, and making eye contact is advisable.

Consider setting up a video camera to observe the working relationships between your colleagues. Examining constructs such as body language, voice tonality, and the content of conversations may provide you with some real insights.

“Simple physical movements and observations can have a profound effect on how we feel and think,” Gladwell (2000).

Onto Part Two

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