Dealing with Difficult People

We can all relate to the challenge of dealing with “difficult" people.

These are the colleagues, bosses, and even relatives that you have no choice but to interact with. You have to get along.

But it’s not easy.

There’s the person so caught up with worry that that she doesn’t listen, or the crabby colleague that can’t get out of his own way.

Maybe you are working with a whiner who is certain that nothing is ever her fault, or the sarcastic know-it-all who rolls his eyes when you attempt to keep things positive.

I'll never forget working with Meg. Dealing with Meg was like hanging out with Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

If she was greeted with "What a beautiful day...", Meg would let out a sigh and say "Yeah, but it's probably going to rain."

And yet, Meg could also be smart, funny, and creative...when she wasn't channeling Eeyore.

I describe people like Meg as hard to like, except when they are easy to love.

Most people are negative because they are masking vulnerability. They are sad, scared, unhappy or a little lost.

They won’t tell you that, but it’s true.

Difficult people are usually hurting, AND many of them have the potential to think constructively, despite their pain.

You can be the lever that nudges someone to move from these negative feelings to more constructive, positive thoughts.

How? It's simple.

Ask questions.

But a word of caution: Not all questions are created equal. You’ll want to ask powerful questions.

A powerful question…

• Is open-ended: Ask what, when or how instead of asking a yes or no question.

• Comes from a beginner’s mindset: Start by telling yourself, “I don’t know the answer.”

• Is clear and succinct: Keep it simple, don’t use too many words.

Try these powerful questions and watch your conversations shift from pain to possibility:

  1. What makes this so challenging for you?

  2. What haven’t you tried yet?

  3. What could this teach you?

  4. Why is it important to get this right?

  5. What will it take to push through?

  6. What support would make a difference?

  7. If you could wipe the slate clean, what would you do?

  8. What opportunities are here for you?

  9. How is this going to make you smarter, better, stronger…?

  10. When will you take action?

Finally, as you listen to the answers, show empathy by acknowledging what you hear.

That’s it. It does take practice. These questions aren't on the tip of your tongue, just yet.

Try this approach and watch the people in your life get become easier to deal with…and they may even become easier to love.

Good Luck!


P.S. - I'd love to hear from you. If you need help communicating with difficult people, The Polished Speaker can help! Get in touch via the website for a free consultation.

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