Speakers with Spark: The art of dealing with difficult people

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You can be a very positive, upbeat person, but let’s face it. In life you have to deal with difficult people.

There might be difficult people at your church, school, family, friends or workplace. In most situations, you can choose to avoid these people. But in the workplace, you sometimes are forced to work with the most challenging of personalities. As a life coach, this is a very popular topic and many ask me to help them cope and turn this negative to a positive.

First, it’s best to try some understanding. We never know where the other person is coming from or what they are thinking. Many times the difficult person has been hurt in their life and has a problem of trusting others so they build a wall that will protect them from being hurt again. Fear usually is at the bottom of the issue. Fear of failure, hurt, not being liked or other similar fears make this person respond the way they do. Try thinking of this person in a compassionate way and sympathizing about a past hurt, fear or personal prison this person has built.

Second, the most important thing is to protect yourself. Do not let this person steal your joy. I work with many people who love their job, make good money but are miserable because they have problems with a co-worker. This person has power over you only if you give it to them. Therefore, take steps to continue your joyful experience at work. Learn to smile when confronted by this person. And no matter what the attempt is to steal your joy keep smiling by using your understanding mentioned above. You will become the most frustrating person for them because they will realize their power is not working on you.

Third, resist the urge to judge. We are all different and we are all so much alike. This makes this world a wonderfully interesting place. Let it go and focus on you and making your life the best it can be. They might find comfort in your non-judgmental attitude and seek you out for advice.

Fourth, dissolve the ego’s need to act. Many times a difficult person is driven by ego. They have to be recognized, have to be given credit, have to feel powerful. Power fuels them. If you take away their power unknowingly, you will become a target. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in the ego battles.

Fifth, kill them with kindness. If you bake cookies for the staff, don’t leave out this person. Be the person you generally are and let their choice of being a tyrant or negative person be their stuff and not yours.

Sixth, check your emotion. Sometimes difficult people can be mean, rude and harsh. If this person is your boss, it becomes even more difficult. A difficult boss can make you cry, and I have worked with many women who have wanted to take out their tear ducts. Realize this is a job. Two years from now, will this matter? Emotions can run strong in the workplace but if you take emotion out of a situation, it gets much easier to discern a solution.

Seventh, document everything. A difficult person unfortunately spends a lot of time trying to find fault. It always is a good idea to document all direction, decisions and acts when dealing with this person just to protect your interest. After awhile, this person will give up on this effort.

Eighth, stand up for yourself. When it really matters, stand up for yourself. Avoid finger pointing or grandstanding, just state the facts and allow the facts to serve as the deciding point.

Ninth, choose your battles. Battles are draining both physically and emotionally and totally nonproductive. In my experience, company politics are some of the most costly and nonproductive people issues. Pick your battles. If it doesn’t matter, don’t engage.

Tenth, release the tension. Release the drama; go back to the joy you find in your work and job. Let the politics go by the wayside. Release the power this person has over you and take your happiness back. Protect your inner joy peacefully.

Susan Rider is a life coach and member of Speakers with Spark who lives in LaRue County and can be reached with reader comments at susanrider@msn.com.