How About Those Difficult People?

For more than twenty years I’ve been working with clients on “How To Deal With Difficult People.”

It sounds kind of grim but it’s really satisfying. Why?

Because everyone has someone who “bugs” them. When they think long and hard about it, what bothers people most is actually something they really don’t like about themselves. There are lots of ways to have fun with this and learn new behaviors  at the same time without navel-gazing.

What I like best about the approach we’ve developed is that it isn’t about coping with jerks. Why settle for coping? Coping doesn’t change anything.

DealingDo You Want To Change Something?

Good. Here are five good diagnostic questions I hope will help:

1. What really drives your blood pressure north?

Identify the triggers are that push your buttons by thinking about past experiences in which your “favorite” person finally got to you.

What did they do? That’s different than why it bothered you. Simply identify their actual behavior. Was it the way they approached you? Looked at you? How did they look at you? Maybe it was a certain voice quality or tone of voice?

2. How did you react?

Do you immediately blame them for how you feel? Do you act distracted or quickly find a distraction? Disavow what’s really going on? When they do their “special” thing, what do you do in response?

3. What do you want from yourself?

What’s the very best you can bring to the situation? Regardless of what they did, what would you do to be delighted with yourself after the interaction?

4. What do you really want from them?

Yeah, I know: “Stop that stuff!”

Not going to happen. So,think about this relationship the way the Cheerios people do on their nutrition label. “What is the MDR (minimum daily requirement) of behavior you can hope for and accept? Then start expecting nothing more. (it’s quite free-ing, really).

5. Has someone else learned a way to deal with this person?

How do they do it? Who might know how to do it? Describe your situation in a way that combines “behavior-then-how-I-feel.” No need to dump on the offender; besides, it makes you less attractive and less of a good candidate for help.

When you’ve reached a point where you have an approach, use it. We train our muscle memories to play tennis, golf, and other sports in ways that become unconscious. You can train your nervous system in the same way.

If you do just one thing differently you may change the entire pattern.


Remember: Success in life isn’t what happens to us; it’s how we respond to what happens to us.

And you are in charge of your responses.

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Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.


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