The ultimate example of a difficult person is the character Newman from the TV sitcom, “Seinfeld.” If you are a fan of the show, like me, you can imagine an exasperated Jerry, saying, “Newman!” In 2010, the character Newman was named on “TV.com’s Top 10: The Most Annoying TV Neighbors.” You probably have a Newman in your workplace – a sneaky, two-faced, annoying person that seems to live to undermine your happiness. How do you deal with these difficult people in the workplace?
Before you say or do anything, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Is there anything you are doing to contribute to this issue? If you are truly an innocent victim, what do you do? Do stand up for yourself? Put the other person in his place? Go to your manager? Quit your job to avoid the conflict? I suggest these three steps to deal with the matter.
An important life lesson is learning to accept people as they are. Let’s face it, we can’t change difficult people. They have their own issues. It is not about you, so don’t take it personally. Painstakingly analyzing why this is happening is bad for your well-being. There is an expression, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” In other words, what we focus on consumes us. Do don’t let the person consume you.
At work, an effective way to cope is to avoid the person whenever possible. If the Newman of your workplace works closely with you, reduce your contact with her as much as possible. Interactions in the presence of other co-workers will reduce the intensity of the attacks, unless your difficult person loves an audience. Try adopting the “friendly, but at a distance” method. This decreases your interactions to necessary encounters where you can have a civil attitude.
Think before you speak or in the case of email and texting, think before you send. Lashing back will put you on the same level as the difficult person. Avoid any negative or emotional responses to comments designed to provoke you. Listen carefully and make sure you understand that person’s point before you respond. Try not to taint the current conversation with leftover feelings from prior bad acts. If you need to address a communication breakdown, use non-confrontational language that bridges the gap between the two of you. You might say, “I may have misunderstood. Is that what you meant?” Or, you may say, “I don’t think we are far apart in our opinion on this.”
The bottom line is that you will encounter “Newmans” everywhere, including work. Why make yourself miserable? Accept people for who they are. We are all flawed. Sometimes insecurities and pride get in the way of productive relationships at work. Avoid toxic, difficult people when possible. When you must interact, foster positivity using non-confrontational language. Let’s wrap this blog post with a favorite quote from the show, “Seinfeld.”
Elaine: “Ugh, I hate people.”
Jerry: “Yeah, they’re the worst.”
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