Magazine article Business Credit

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Magazine article Business Credit

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Article excerpt

How to Deal with Difficult People

Difficult people are everywhere! They can be our coworkers, customers, supervisors, neighbors and even family members. Difficult personality types can drain us of our energy and move us from a positive position to a negative state of mind very quickly. Many of us would like to avoid interacting with difficult people or, even worse, we can't help but react to them with frustration and defensiveness.

Imagine this scenario, you are sitting in a dental office reception room waiting calmly for your appointment. Then, a well dressed, professional-looking man walks into the waiting area, strolls up to the to the receptionist and says, "Good afternoon, my name is Mr. Jones. I am here for my three o'clock appointment." The receptionist greets him warmly, looks down into her scheduling book, turns the page, looks up and says, "Mr. Jones, I can see here that your appointment is for next Thursday at three o'clock, not today."

"What?!" he explodes, "Do you think I'm incompetent and don't know how to read a calendar? What is your name young lady? I'm going to talk to the doctor about you and your employment!!!"

I asked an audience in one of my corporate seminars the question of why tñere are difficult people, and why do they do what they do. With quick wit, a woman exclaimed, "Because they are evil!" Though it may feel that way sometimes, in actuality, difficult people do what they do for a very strategic reason.

Think about the dental office story. Why would this man explode in front of the receptionist in this manner? Because more likely than not, she is going to try to fit him into the schedule that day. You see, difficult people do what they do, not because they are evil, but because it works.

It is a problem-solving strategy they learned in childhood and carried into their adult relationships. Much of our personality development is a result of how we learned to handle conflict as children. In our preceding example, Mr. Jones most likely figured out as a child that a way to handle conflict and get his needs met is by throwing a temper- tantrum. His behavior in the dental office is a microcosm of how he attempts to solve problems as an adult. He probably explodes in the other relationships of his Ufe as well: at his kids, his wife and his coworkers. He has become an EXPLODER.

The first rule of thumb to realize when encountering a difficult person is to understand that they are not evil; they are simply displaying for you their primary defense mechanism and their unconscious strategy of getting their needs met. It is unconscious because, most often, the individual is blind to their own behavior. You may recall talking to an exploder in your life and pointing out to them that they are yelling at you. "I am not yelling!" they may shout as their volume escalates even more.

How do we deal with these difficult personality types? Can we change them? The answer to the second question is no. You cannot change someone else. In fact, the more you try to change them, the more resistant they will become to your efforts.

Though you cannot change difficult people, you can deal with them by employing the technique of what I call "The Surprise Effect." The Surprise Effect means four things: first, it means that you can do the exact opposite of what people expect you to do, second, it means you can take control of your own responses, third, it means you can be proactive with people and not reactive; and fourth, it means you can interrupt frustrating and dysfunctional patterns of behavior in relationships.

This works because most interpersonal interactions have an expected routine or outcome. For example, the expected outcome of anger is defensiveness. If someone explodes at me with anger, you can pretty much expect that 1 will become defensive and may even explode back. On the flip side, what if instead of buying into the expected argument, I could rescript my own responses and do something totally unexpected and unanticipated? …

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