We have all had, and will continue to have to deal with difficult people, a difficult situation, or a difficult conversation. These situations can be very unpleasant and make us want to lash out and get on the defensive. When dealing with a difficult person, this is the last thing you want to do. Why? Because it will get nowhere, except ‘angryville’. The best advice I can give is this; don’t react in the moment, control your own attitude and reaction, not the difficult persons, and wait for the person to calm down and finish what they have to say (even if it seems unreasonable). When the person is done, this is the time to try and have a positive conversation. The best way to keep everyone out of angry town is to not play the blame game on anyone or anything else in the process. This will show that you are a person of integrity.
Here are a few steps to remember:
Before you respond, take a moment to stop and breathe. You want to avoid knee-jerk reactions when dealing with difficult people, conversations or situations. Keeping a cool head makes a much stronger impact. When you react without assessing the situation, things almost invariably get worse. Just take a couple moments to think about what positive outcome you would like to have come out of this and ask yourself if your response will enhance or decrease that outcome. It will be tempting to want to say and do everything and anything to prove you are right, but avoid this temptation. It will not give you the outcome you desire. Being right might make you feel happy in the moment, but that will quickly diminish and turn into guilt and more frustration, hurt and anger – for all those involved.
When dealing with difficult people, conversations and situations, it often involves more than one person. There is your side and their side. Both need to be looked at and respected. Consider all sides of the problem. What is the other person actually upset about? What are the circumstances, past, present and future that might be making this person react the way they are? This will you give you clues that will lead towards managing the situation successfully. When you take the focus off yourself and look at it from a different perspective, you often see that there are two sides and possibly a much more positive way to deal with the problem.
Listening is one of the best things you can do for someone. People want, need and desire to be heard. Even if you don’t think their point is valid. Everyone has a voice and should be able to talk without the other person immediately going on the defensive and not being able to finish. Just bite your tongue and wait. Speaking of wait, remember this when you want to interrupt…W.A.I.T. [Why Am I Talking?} When I’m working with couples in my coaching practice, I make sure that each person gets to speak without the other interrupting. I often hear, “I just want him/her to listen.” Sometimes people just want to be heard and just being able to speak their minds defuses the situation.
Now you can speak. This step should ideally come after the first three steps. But, more often than not, we respond first and then stop, look and listen, sometimes not even listening. It is very important to choose the most positive response and that often comes after you have really heard the persons perspective, onions, feelings and make them feel like you really heard them. You can respond by saying, “I hear you say…and it makes you feel…am I correct?” You can take it even further and say, “What can I do to help or stop doing so that you don’t feel that way?” This questioning process is a great way to really get to the root of the problem and have a positive conversation. There is no finger pointing or blaming because you are asking them if you heard them correctly.
Attitude Is A Choice
Lastly, remember that attitude is a choice…your choice. Don’t try to control the other persons feelings, attitude and responses to suit your agenda. The only thing you have any control over is your own attitude, feelings and responses. If you do all of these positive steps and the person is being too stubborn to do the same, be okay with walking away and letting it go without resolving it in the moment.
Be happy. Be healthy. Be Contagiously Positive.
Laurie-ann Sheldrick, The Contagiously Positive Girl