Dealing with Difficult People
Posted by Anni M.
No matter where you work, the changes are good that, at some point, you’ve had to deal with a difficult co-worker. It’s that person who can only talk about himself, takes credit for your work, cuts everyone off mid-thought, and can’t take criticism without throwing a fit. Often, difficult people are type-A personalities: headstrong, persistent, forceful, aggressive, and bossy. These people are driven by their own selfish and highly subjective realities. Sometimes, people are difficult because they think they’re more important than everyone else—that their time matters more. I have a friend who is always late… always. She never apologizes for it. She doesn’t call ahead or compensate by setting her watch fast. She just arrives when she arrives and expects everyone to deal with it. Selfishness is one of the most frustrating personality traits to handle. It’s not something you can correct by pointing it out. Selfish people just feel sorry for themselves. They blame everyone else for their bad behavior. So what do you do? Well, in my experience, the only way to handle difficult people is to change your own perception. Assume they won’t change. Instead, change the way you interact with them.
Think about how the person makes you feel about yourself. Often, these feelings fuel our frustration and anger. For example, when my friend is late it reminds me that I can be impatient, one of my least favorite things about myself. By recognizing that her behavior makes me feel inadequate and petty, I diffuse my anger, if only slightly. I’ve found that slight diffusion very helpful. It gives me a chance to take a breath, to evaluate whether or not the extra 15 minutes really matters. Usually, it doesn’t.
Try switching your perspective. It’s possible that you are your difficult person’s difficult person. When personalities clash, both sides can end up feeling irritated. For example, workaholics may be frustrated by their laid-back co-workers, and vice versa. To the workaholic, idle chitchat is a waste of time: things aren’t getting done! To the laid back person, a workaholic may seem too intense and stressful. If you can muster some empathy for the person that drives you nuts, handling their behavior will be much easier.
Take the long view. If you’re best efforts to muster empathy fail because, say, your co-worker still insists on taking credit for your work (a particularly egregious offense), try to think about your situation through a long-term lens. Look past this person to your own professional future. Is he going to stand in your way or is this just a blip on your road to success? If he’s just a blip, treat him like a blip and move on. You’re just hurting yourself by obsessing. If he is getting in the way of your work or reputation, say something to your boss. Your future is what matters most.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..