Managing Difficult People

Have you ever break out in cold sweat when you have no choice but to deal with certain people. Have you ever said something like “Man, life would be so much easier if I don’t have to deal with XX?” You obviously perceive XX as a difficult person, but is he/she really?

Managing difficult people can be tough.

Difficult people can be bosses or co-workers who intimidate or gossip about others. They probably and purposely making your life miserable and the tasks unbearable long and tedious…. They might miss deadlines, blame their shortcomings on others, and complain about everyone and everything under the sky! Their behaviors are wasting others’ previous times, resources and talents, and they often manage to drive others away!

And sometimes they don’t even aware that their behaviors are perceived negatively and that they are disliked by others! The first step in managing difficult people, especially with this kind of person is to determine whether the individual is really a “difficult” person or if the individual is just having an “off” day. To determine if someone is a difficult person, ask yourself or others the following three questions.

1. Does this individual have a history of being a difficult person?

This is to differentiate and determine if this individual is being difficult all the times or if there was a time when the person didn’t act difficult. Check that out by getting a historical appraisal from others. What are others opinion and perception about this individual? Do they perceive the individual’s current behavior as a passing phase or something more prevalent?

However, need to take note that you cannot be bias and let your judgment influenced by others’ perception. You have to maintain objectivity when dealing with this person. Relying on others perception is very dangerous. Bias, even though subconsciously, will affect your opinion on this person and close you mind towards this person and ruin your chances to build a good relationship with this person.

2. Is the person reacting to a particular event?

This is a critical question to ask if the person doesn’t have a history of being difficult. Someone might be having a bad day, or grieving over the death of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage. Or the individual might be disappointed about being passed over for promotion. Atypical behavior in these instances should be considered “normal” under the circumstances. You need to be considerate towards him/her. Everyone may experience “bad day” but that will not make them labeled as difficult people.

3. Am I overreacting to this person?

Sometimes your own perceptions or expectations can affect the way you view another person. Therefore, be sure to check your own reactions to the person. You can do this by talking to others and either verifying your perceptions, or gaining the perspective of a colleague or supervisor who may have a different reaction to the individual.

Ask yourself an honest question – did you have history with this person? Do you have any bias or discontentment against this person during your previous encounter with this person? Or have someone close to you makes some unpleasant comment about this person which probably clouded your judgment?

If the individual has demonstrated a history of being difficult, if there isn’t a precipitating event to explain the person’s behavior, and if your own perceptions are correct, then it’s probably safe to consider the individual to be a difficult person. In managing difficult people and difficult situations, you always should ask yourself a few defining questions before assuming that someone is a difficult person. After all, you probably wouldn’t like it if someone mislabeled you as temperamental or hard to get along with. By taking the time to properly identify difficult people, you can then determine how to appropriately cope with them.


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