Guest Post by Kylie Warry
Your options when it comes to dealing with difficult people are many. You can avoid, procrastinate, blame, whine, cry, shake, gossip… (I am sure there is many more) or you can take a deep breath and do what needs to be done.
Kenny Rogers had it right.
“Know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Know when to walk away and know when to run”. If you are saying “Kenny who” I am showing my age. I will be positive and say that this implies wisdom on my behalf!
Difficult people are all around us. You cannot avoid them! In fact, there is someone somewhere in the world that finds you difficult. Weird huh?
The key to dealing with difficult people is be aware of how it affects you, to be aware of your own responses, to maintain emotional control and to ensure that you are working for the best outcome. This is not about control or manipulation but about choice. We all choose our behavior and also our responses.
In dealing with difficult people, there are times when the best thing to do is let it go (for example, if the person is unlikely to listen or change). There are also times when it is best to speak up confidently and assertively (for example if someone at work is disrespecting you). There are also times when you need to look after yourself because the person is unlikely to change (the overly needy friend who always takes and never gives).
I was dealing with a very aggressive person recently. This person was known to Police and was involved in drugs. This person did not want my assistance and made it very clear. There were some legal reasons that I was asked to be involved to provide this person with their right to support.
Despite my best intentions this fellow would verbally threaten, yell abuse and generally disrespect me each time we met. It was clear that after only a few encounters this person was not going to change and that my time and energy was best served by working with someone who did want my support. This is what I mean when I say, “pick your battles, look after yourself and realise that each of us are self responsible.”
So, I made the decision to tell him that I would no longer be working with him. I also told the referring party that I would no longer be seeing this gentleman as he was not invested in the process and it was a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
Sometimes you MUST stand up for yourself.
This can be a hard idea to swallow if you feel overly responsible, if you have ever enabled someone in your life. The bottom line is that each of us are accountable for our own outcomes.
Your difficult person may be telling you that if you don’t help them they won’t cope. The truth is, the best gift you can give them is by believing in them, empowering them and allowing them to do things independently.
If you are struggling, then we are here to help. Dealing with a difficult person can be lonely, it can provoke feelings of anxiety and fear, but this is not how it has to stay. You don’t need to struggle any more, you are not alone, some simple steps can make all the difference.
Our goal within the realm of Rehabilitation is to help, to support, to restore someone to health or to improved function during recovery following illness or injury. Dealing with someone who we find difficult is just the same however we may need to change the WAY we approach this. If what we are doing is not working, we have options of simply changing the WAY we interact.
We come across people who are vulnerable and emotionally fragile all the time in the rehabilitation, return to work and recovery space. Sometimes the people we are dealing with are just difficult. We can become avoidant, we can get frustrated, we can get defensive. When this happens our reactions, we don’t actually help anyone, including our client or ourselves. We may even notice that a certain “type” of person or behaviour “triggers” something within us.
5 simple things you can do when dealing with difficult people are
1. Acknowledge that you find this person difficult.
2. Write a plan of what you need from the communication with the client, be clear in your intention and your purpose for needing to communicate with them.
3. Make sure you get support – ask a colleague to help you navigate the discomfort working with this person brings. Seeking some training or ask for a mentor to help you manage the situation.
4. Utilise your strengths as a Communicator (i.e. are you a great listener, do you build rapport well, are you strategic?)
5. Notice the needs of the person that you find difficult (for example, do they need you to just listen, are they frightened of being let down, do they need reassurance, are they anxious, do they have other supports?
Difficult people aren’t going anywhere, we will always be exposed to them. We can help them (and us) by learning how to help difficult people be well less difficult for us.
If you would like to learn how deal more effectively with difficult people in your work, we can help. We have many resources and training that can help you build the skills necessary to use your communication strengths and be able to deal more effectively with difficult people.
Get in touch and we can work with you to support you in building this essential toolkit.
Until next time Care, Connect and be a Courageous Communicator.
Let’s change the world we live in, one conversation at a time.