Dealing with difficult people is not simply a skill. It is a leadership skill. Great leaders in business know how to handle difficult individuals. They know how to tackle the problem head-on, resolve any issues, and move forward to continue the business relationship. Business people without these skills will get bogged down in the quagmire of conflict, wasting precious time and energy on difficult people. Stitt Feld Handy Group has comprehensive leadership skills training focused on effectively dealing with difficult people. If you’d like to rise above the fray and improve your conflict management skills, training is available to both groups and individuals. In the meantime, here are a few tips for handling difficult people, whether they are co-workers, clients, or industry peers.
1. Try to not take it personally. We know you’ve probably heard this tip before. We know it’s hard. Oftentimes, difficult people will try to make it personal. Don’t let them. When dealing with conflicts in a professional environment, you simply cannot view them as a personal attack. If you don’t take the conflict personally, you will be able to devise a conflict management strategy that will allow you to resolve the issue and move forward. After all, that is the goal. If you find yourself in a discussion with a difficult person who is trying to make the conflict personal, try to redirect them. Ask questions about the heart of the issue, show your willingness to resolve it, and keep him or her on track. If you prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, you will be able to quickly diffuse it.
2. Don’t delay addressing the problem. This is one of the primary mistakes that business people make when dealing with difficult people. They hope that the problem will go away on its own, or that time will make dealing with the conflict easier somehow. In fact, letting the issue fester usually only worsens the problem. If there is a misunderstanding, address it as soon as possible. Sometimes difficult people are venting their frustration in the only way they know. Often, a simple “I’m sorry that you feel that way,” or “I’m sorry we had a misunderstanding,” can go a long way. In addition, dealing with the problem sooner rather than later can help minimize any fallout. By addressing the difficult person directly as soon as the conflict arises, you cut off his or her tendency to involve other parties in the conflict.
3. Stay calm and don’t allow for escalation. Once you are not taking it personally, you’ll find that it is easier to control your actions. Remember that body language, facial expression, and tone of voice must all suggest that you are open and willing to resolve the conflict. Never raise your voice, even if the difficult person is yelling at you. Many difficult people simply feel that they are misunderstood or ignored. By staying calm and listening to the difficult person’s side of the story, you will be taking the wind from the sails of their anger. Usually, this leads to the difficult person getting down to the heart of the matter, which allows you to address the actual problem.