Archive for the ‘How to Deal with Anger’ Category

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Difficult People

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Learn to Play Nice

I think it’s safe to say that all of us, at one time or another, have had to deal with a difficult person at work. But the good news is, you do not have to let them get the better of you! Below are proven tactics that can help you get past a co-worker’s difficult behavior.

From Know-It-Alls to Hecklers

Everyone has met these people. You may not have taken the time to categorize them, but difficult people generally fall into the following categories according to a Huffington Post article:

  • Talk hogs – dominate the discussion, either in a positive or negative way
  • Know-it-alls – chime in whenever, about whatever, no matter what is being discussed
  • Resenters – use dismissive hostility to make it known they would rather be anywhere else but at work
  • Hecklers – use off-putting remarks, backhanded compliments, and tasteless jokes
  • Gripers – constant complainers, always pointing out the negative side

No matter what kind of difficult behavior these people subscribe to, the air can be sucked right out of the room, and productivity screeches to a halt. It’s been said before and it will be said again, the only person you can truly control is you, so don’t let Debbie Downer or Steve the Bully get to you!

Don’t Let Them Push Your Buttons

There are four tactics to utilize to keep difficult people from getting a rise out of you:

  1. Keep emotion in check; stick to the facts of the situation, calmly state what you know, and what you can do to help
  2. Consider an alternative; in some cases it’s better to remove yourself from the situation (especially if the person just rubs you the wrong way and there is no way of getting past it) or engage a third party as an intermediary
  3. Don’t personalize it; when others are being difficult, sometimes the easiest course is to take it personally. Don’t; because it usually doesn’t have anything to do with you
  4. Collect yourself; for example, if you are conversing with a difficult person on the phone, pause and take a deep breath before responding, sometimes that moment makes all the difference in the world

Not matter what technique you may engage to deal with a difficult person, the situation may not be able to be diffused. In this case remember, only address the unwanted behavior, and not the person. No one benefits when it crosses the line and becomes personal.

I recently encountered a know-it-all when I was presenting to a group of about 35 individuals. She constantly interrupted and tried to correct me. It could have really rattled me, but I did not personalize it. I found out later that she does this to compensate for her own lack of self-esteem. I didn’t realize this until I personally witnessed her crying in front of another presenter. It took me back – I realized then that she was not the person who I thought she was.

Safety First, My Friends

Difficult can cross to scary before you know it, so be mindful of workplace safety for yourself and others. Remember the following:

  • Ask for help from others
  • Don’t get cornered
  • Avoid being alone with a difficult person
  • Try not to turn your back on a difficult person
  • Don’t take it personally

 

Article by, 

Dealing with difficult people: A guide

Monday, February 20th, 2017

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) shakes hands with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the Gleneagles Hotel for the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland July 7, 2005. Aid, debt relief and climate change will top the agenda when leaders of the G8 - the Group of Seven industrialised nations plus Russia - meet for three days in Gleneagles. UNICS REUTERS/Jim Young CRB - RTRGQCN

Difficult people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with difficult people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, difficult people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize difficult people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep difficult people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that smart people employ when dealing with difficult people, what follows are some of the best. To deal with difficult people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They set limits. Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They rise above. Difficult people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They stay aware of their emotions. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They establish boundaries. This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They don’t die in the fight. Smart people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They don’t focus on problems—only solutions. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They don’t forget. Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Smart people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They squash negative self-talk. Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They get some sleep. I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They use their support system. It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

Article by,

Travis Bradberry, President, TalentSmart

6 Tips For Dealing With Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Friday, February 10th, 2017

1. I Am Really Ticked Off. Do I Have To Be Forgiving?

The last two years I’ve had several difficult personal and professional problems, which left me feeling mad, victimized and obsessed with a few people’s General Awfulness.

This is what Hell feels like: to be obsessed with a generally awful person who isn’t even aware of the turmoil he or she is causing. Heaven is to have forgiven — or to have forgiven-ish, the best you can, for now. When your heart is even slightly softer toward that person, and you are less clenched and aggrieved, you’ve been touched by grace.

Grace is spiritual WD-40. It eases our way out of grippy, self-righteous stuckness. The question is, how do we avail ourselves of it?

I’ve learned that if you want to have loving feelings, do loving things. We think we’ll eventually figure something out, and get over the grudge, and that this will constitute forgiveness. But it’s the opposite: We take an action and the insight follows. Any friendly action will do; intention is everything. We show up somewhere knowing the person who aggrieved us will be there, and we go up and say hi. If the person is a relative, we ask for help with the dishes. (This is very subversive.)

Any warm action will yield the insight — life is short, and Earth is Forgiveness School.

All of my resentments have been healed. That doesn’t mean I want to have lunch with those people, but my heart has softened, which is a miracle. One person still judges me, and bears false witness against me, but thankfully, that is not my business or my problem, because I have chosen freedom. Nothing is more wonderful.

Anne Lamott is the author of Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.

2. What’s A Respectful Way To Defend My Beliefs?

When I became a political commentator, I looked for a refresher course in persuasion. Unfortunately, Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs, had not yet been published. (I highly recommend it.) I did stumble across the Monty Python “Argument” sketch (“This isn’t an argument.” “Yes it is.” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is.”), which sounds a lot like our current political discourse.

I approach every argument as if I’m trying to get out of a speeding ticket: with humor and respect. I listen. And when things get tense, I pretend I’m in a restaurant, debating what to order. Public policy isn’t coleslaw versus French fries, but persuasion starts with respecting that there are many valid choices. Another trick? Slow down. Powerful speech can come in at around 120 words per minute—angry or nervous speech can be about twice that. When all else fails, make a joke. There’s no better tool for reaching across the “I’ll.” Yes, I just said that. A little pun, even a bad one, goes a long way.

Donna Brazile is a syndicated columnist, political strategist, and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

3. What’s Code For “Mind Your Own Business?”

Dorothea Johnson is the founder of The Protocol School of Washington, and actress Liv Tyler is her granddaughter. They are the authors of Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top.

Liv: Say, “Thank you for trying to help, but I’m not comfortable talking about that right now.” Often you can shut someone down by mentioning your feelings.

Dorothea: Offering thanks is diplomatic. Kill ‘em with kindness!

Liv: Even if something really offends you, ask yourself whether it contains some truth worth exploring later.

Dorothea: And don’t get argumentative about unsolicited advice. Take the high road. The low road is so crowded.

4. How Can Friends Stay Friendly?

Pals Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have coauthored eight books; the most recent is The First Affair.

Emma: Going back to grade school, girls find comfort in friends who have the same tastes they do. Any difference can provoke anxiety. Some of our greatest tension has been about whether a character’s curtains should be cream or ecru!

Nicola: We’re with Ben Affleck: Like a marriage, friendship takes work — the same honest communication and frequent check-ins you need with a partner. Celebrate your conflicting opinions. They only make the relationship stronger.

5. Can I Maintain Sanity In My Nutty Office?

Even in toxic environment we can achieve a sense of calm, through meditation. No one has to know what you’re up to. Spend five minutes sitting at your desk, with your back straight but relaxed; try not to look directly at your computer. Breathe at your normal pace and frequency, then sharpen your focus by noticing the sensations in your nostrils, chest, abdomen. You’ll feel more balanced with each breath. And the next time a coworker frustrates you, be grateful that her nastiness comes your way only in two-minute bursts; she has to live inside that energy all the time.

Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg is the author of Real Happiness at Work.

6. Why Should I Hang Out with People Who Think Differently Than I Do?

Cultivating contacts outside your social circle brings a little ordered chaos into your life. Most of us find the idea of chaos stressful, but history suggests that the disorder following upheaval often brings unexpected benefits: The Plague, for example, helped usher in the Renaissance. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for catastrophe to strike; just form relationships with all kinds of individuals. I call them “unusual suspects,” because they’ll naturally push your thinking in new directions. Ask yourself which groups have made you a bit uncomfortable in the past, and try reaching out to them. (I’m from Israel, and one of my unusual suspects runs a church.) Make a point of getting together with your new connections with no agenda. Even if you just chat, you’ve created an opportunity for ideas to be born.

Article by, Ori Brafman

Ori Brafman is the coauthor of The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success.

Human Interaction: The Skill Nobody Ever Teaches You

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

What’s more important: knowledge, work habits or the way we interact with others?

Recently, one of my clients was creating a project team. Several people volunteered, yet when they found out that Ms. So and So was going to be part of it, they quickly retracted their offers. The project hadn’t even started, yet they were already jumping ship at the mere thought of having to work with Ms. So and So.

Here’s the weird part: The person nobody wanted to work with was highly regarded for her knowledge of the subject, and she was generally known as a hard worker. What’s more, most of the team believed she probably wanted the best for the organization as a whole.

She was smart, she wanted to help and she had a good work ethic. So why didn’t anyone want to work with her?

Because her personality was so negative that she sucked the life out of people. With everyone already overworked to the max, they quickly decided that they weren’t willing to muster up the extra emotional energy needed to deal with her.

What’s sad is that I doubt she has any idea how she’s coming across. She probably thought all her criticisms and negative commentary were actually helpful.

Negative people rarely recognize just how challenging they make it for everyone else. However, seasoned managers quickly learn that the extra effort you have to expend managing a complainer just isn’t worth it.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Fortune 500 or the PTA. A negative attitude will overshadow a high IQ, a strong desire to serve and even a great work ethic.

Ironic, isn’t it? We place so much emphasis on knowledge and work habits, yet the thing that often derails people is their interpersonal skills.

What’s even more ironic is that unless you’re a speech, drama or broadcast major, you can go all the way through college without ever getting any meaningful feedback on how you’re being perceived by others.

The challenge with over-the-top negativity is two-fold. First, the offender is usually so interpersonally unskilled he or she doesn’t recognize the problem. Numerous studies reveal that competent people tend to rate themselves much more harshly than incompetent people because a person’s incompetence literally blinds them to their own incompetence. (You’re entitled to a self-satisfied chortle here.)

But the second challenge is that no one calls them on it because we often assume that they’re doing it on purpose and that they like being a project killer.

So the smart, on-time-with-their-work-yet-emotionally-clueless person continues to over-complain (or needle people about inconsequential issues, or whine, or make negative assumptions, etc.), oblivious to the fact that the rest of the team is deflating by the moment.

The solution is simple: Get some training. We don’t expect people to learn chemistry without a teacher; why should we expect people to instinctively know how to create positive interactions?

Don’t get me wrong: You don’t have to ooze charisma or become a Pollyanna. People are just fine working with shy, quiet people, and nobody expects a non-stop cheerleader.

But if every comment you make is negative or critical, you’re probably detracting from the group more than you’re adding to it. Your knowledge may be valuable, but if you consistently serve it up with a scowl, nobody is going to want to hear it.

Bottom line: Learning how to evoke positive feelings in others isn’t cutesy; it’s critical.

3 Steps To Managing Workplace Conflict With Emotional Intelligence

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

No matter how great a corporate culture you create, no matter how good a role model you are, it’s inevitable that situations will arise that require you to mitigate emotional stress within the ranks. Personal conflicts, outside pressures, and job-related stress will eventually become a factor to be dealt with in any workplace setting. How well leaders handle those situations depends on their emotional intelligence.

Managers often make one of two common mistakes when dealing with an emotional situation.

  • The manager attempts to invalidate or downplay an emotional conflict and becomes a player in the emotional drama himself.
  • The manager simply ignores the job-affecting emotions, hoping they will resolve themselves.

When the manager or group leader tries to downplay or dismiss a worker’s emotions, he or she inevitably creates a bigger problem. Not only does this raise the emotional stakes, but it now creates a situation in which negative emotions are directed at the manager. Though this is very common and, arguably, a natural form of response from busy managers with plenty on their plates, it’s incumbent upon leaders to avoid leaving an employee feeling slighted in this way.

Likewise, ignoring the problem often creates a snowball effect, where resentment and negative emotions continue to grow, making the situation worse. It’s always better to address emotionally-wrought problems earlier rather than later.

There is a three-step formula, however, which comes naturally to emotionally intelligent leaders. It is one that can easily be employed by any manager to take the edge off an emotional situation. This formula does not attempt to solve the problem itself, but is geared toward addressing and neutralizing the emotions so that the problem can then be approached in a more objective and effective manner.

Step 1: Acknowledge

More than anything, people want their feelings to be acknowledged. It may seem overly simple at first, but a statement such as, “I want you to know, I understand you are feeling very stressed right now,” can go miles toward lowering the emotional stakes of a situation. Everyone wants to feel understood, and acknowledgment is not difficult or compromising to do. Further, it doesn’t concede agreement with the emotional state; only empathy.

Step 2: Positively substitute

There is great power in a positive outlook and almost any negative situation can be framed in a positive light. A manager with emotional wisdom may say something like, “I know you are under a lot of stress, and I know a great deal of it is because you are a great employee and want to do the very best job you can.” What the manager has done in this example is to mitigate a negative emotion with the positive emotion of personal pride in a job well done. This doesn’t alleviate the first emotion, but it adds a positive perspective into the conversation.

Step 3: Suggest, re-acknowledge and appreciate

Not all situations are within the control of the manager. An increased workload that has come down from above may not be able to be removed, for example. What the manager can do is suggest ways he or she might be able to help, re-acknowledge the emotions involved and offer appreciation for the employee. “I cannot promise anything, but I will try to see if there is any way to lighten your load. I understand you are feeling stressed and I want you to know I really appreciate your efforts.” By saying this, you have reassured the employee without making binding promises, and reinforced a sense of empathy and appreciation.

Article by, Scott Allen

Scott “Social Media” Allen is a 25-year veteran technology entrepreneur, executive and consultant. He’s coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first book on the business use of social media, and The Emergence of The Relationship Economy.

How to Deal with Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

She thinks you’re having a conversation, but you don’t get to speak a word. Something doesn’t go according to plan and you’re the one he blames. Whether it’s a family member, a co-worker or (worse) your boss, highly aggressive and challenging people can turn a perfectly good day into a dramatic experience without any reason. When walking away is not an option, what do you do?

We have all met people who are so prickly and difficult that no one wants to handle them. In most situations, walking away is an option, and you escape with no more than ruffled feathers. But some situations are inescapable. You can wait until the thorny personality is gone and moan “She’s just impossible” to a friend. Far better, though, to begin to develop skills in practical psychology.

First, take responsibility for your part of the interaction. Animosity is created in your own heart. Even the most impossible person had a mother. He was loved by somebody. If you can deal with your own reaction and take responsibility for it, no step is more productive. Detachment is always the best response, because if you can interact without having a reaction, you will be clear-headed enough to make progress in relating to this difficult person. Next, try to name what specifically causes the difficulty. Is the person clinging, controlling, competitive? We all tend to use descriptive words loosely, but it helps to know exactly what is going on.

Clingers

Clinging types want to be taken care of and loved. They feel weak and are attracted to stronger people. If desperate, they will cling to anyone.What doesn’t work: Clinging types cannot be handled with avoidance. They are like Velcro and will stick to you every time you get close. They ignore a polite no, but you can’t use direct rejection without making an enemy. Neutrality hurts their feelings and makes them feel insecure.

What works: Clinging types can be handled by showing them how to deal with situations on their own. Give them responsibility. Instead of doing what they want, show them how to do it. This works with children, and clinging types are children who have never grown up (which is why they often seem so infantile). If they try the gambit of saying that you do the job so much better, reply that you don’t. The stronger and more capable you act, the more they will cling. Finally, find situations where you can honestly say, “I need your help.” They will either come through or walk away. You will probably be happy either way.

Controllers

Controlling types have to be right. There is always an excuse for their behavior (however brutal) and always a reason to blame others. Controlling people are perfectionists and micro-managers. Their capacity to criticize others is endless.What doesn’t work: Controlling types won’t back down if you show them concrete evidence that you are right and they are wrong. They don’t care about facts, only about being right. If they are perfectionists, you can’t handle them simply by doing a better job. There’s always going to be something to criticize.

What works: Controlling types can be handled by acting unintimidated. At heart, controlling types fear they are inadequate, and they defend against their own insecurity by making other people feel insecure and not good enough. Show you are good enough. When you do a good job, say so and don’t fall for their insistence on constant changes. Be strong and stand up for yourself. Above all, don’t turn an encounter into a contest of who’s right and who’s wrong—you’ll never outplay a controlling type at his or her own game.

Competitors

Competitive types have to win. They see all encounters, no matter how trivial, as a contest. Until they win, they won’t let go.What doesn’t work: Competitive types can’t be pacified by pleading. Any sign of emotion is like a red flag to a bull. They take your tears as a sign of weakness and charge even harder. They want to go in for the kill, even when you beg them not to. If you stand your ground and try to win, they will most likely jump ship and abandon you.

What works: Competitive types are handled by letting them win. Until they win, they won’t have a chance to show generosity. Most competitive types want to be generous; it improves their self-image, and competitive types never lose sight of their self-image. If you have a strong disagreement, never show emotion or ask for mercy. Instead, make a reasonable argument. If the discussion is based on facts, competitive types have a way to back down without losing. (For example, instead of saying “I’m too tired to do this. It’s late, and you’re being unfair,” say “I need more research time on this, and I will get it to you faster if I am fresh in the morning.”)

Self-Important People

These people have their say. You can’t shut them up. Mostly you can ignore their contribution, however. They tend to forget what they said very quickly.What works: If they domineer to the point of suffocating you, stay away. The best strategy—the one used by those who actually love such types and marry them—is to sit back and enjoy the show.

Chronic Complainers

These people are bitter and angry but haven’t dealt with the reality that the source of their anger is internal.What works: Your only option is generally to put up with them and stay away when you can. Don’t agree with their complaints or try to placate them. They have endless fuel for their bitterness and simmering rage.

Victims

These people are passive-aggressive. They get away with doing wrong to you by hurting themselves in the bargain. If they arrive half an hour late at a restaurant, for example, they had something bad happen to hold them up. The fact that you are the target of the inconvenience is never acknowledged.What works: The best tactic is to get as angry as you normally would, if called for. Don’t take their victimization as an excuse. If the victim is a “poor me” type without the passive-aggressive side, offer realistic, practical help, rather than sympathy. (For example, if they announce that they might lose their job, say “I can loan you money and give you some job leads,” instead of “That’s awful. You must feel terrible.”)

In the short run, most of the everyday difficult types want somebody to listen and not judge. If you can do that without getting involved, lending your ear for a while is also the decent thing to do. Being a good listener means not arguing, criticizing, offering your own opinion or interrupting. If the other person has a genuine interest in you—most difficult people don’t—he or she will invite you to talk, not simply listen. Yet being a good listener has its limits. As soon as you feel taken advantage of, start exiting. The bottom line with practical psychology is that you know what to fix, what to put up with and what to walk away from.

Article By, Deepak Chopra

How To Handle An Angry Outburst In The Workplace

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Have you ever been so angry you couldn’t speak? Have your buttons been pushed so that your detonation switch was triggered?

I can relate. I have been so angry that I have lashed out like a two-year-old. I have avoided people after saying something I deeply regret. I have lived those moments in my head over and over again.

And I have learned, albeit the hard way, that when I am angry it’s best for me to say nothing at all.

But that’s easier said than done.

Experts tell us that the average explosion of anger is 45 seconds long. Try being on the receiving end of 45 seconds of anger, frustration, and undoubtedly unprofessional behaviour. But, sadly, it does happen in the workplace as well as in our personal lives.

When your opponent is letting loose on you, it is important to take the high road, to remain calm, and to avoid saying something you will regret saying.

But how do you do that?

Rather than focusing on your anger, focus on hearing what the other person is saying. Don’t listen to what they are saying — hearing and listening are two totally different things. Hear past the person’s words, and try to understand what they are trying to tell you.

When they are finished, avoid the temptation to ask them if they are finished yet (remember, we are trying to be professional here). Let two or three full seconds pass before you say anything. Maintain eye contact. Remember that you still have to work with this person in the future (or attend family gatherings with them).

When the time has passed (to ensure they are indeed finished), put on your most “adult” voice, with as much calm as you can muster, and say, “I’m sorry you feel this way.”

This, in my opinion, is a beautiful statement. It does not mean that you agree with what they are upset about; it does not mean anything, really. You probably are sorry they feel this way, because if they weren’t so upset, you wouldn’t be at the receiving end of this explosion (and undoubtedly your day would be better).

Don’t say anything after that. Stop talking. Let them get the final bits of anger and frustration out. Don’t become a sponge, and don’t absorb what they are saying. Don’t defend yourself, or even comment on what was said at this point.

This will be difficult.

Here’s something that will be even harder: to simply walk away. Walking away and remaining quiet are two of the most important things you will ever do. You can’t say the wrong thing when you walk away. And it gives you time to ensure that you do say the right thing.

Before you walk away, you do need to indicate that this person’s behaviour is not acceptable and that you both need to do something about it. Say, “I agree that we need to talk about what just happened.” (Be sure to avoid the word “you.” Don’t say “We need to talk about what you just said.” Although true, it creates defensiveness and your opponent will not listen to what you said.)

Say, “Let’s get together again in two hours in my/your office to discuss this.” And then leave. If two hours is not OK with your opponent, leave it up to them to reschedule.

You do need to deal with the issue. But the middle of an angry confrontation is not the right place, and certainly not the right time. You need to prepare yourself for what you have to say, how you want to say it, and ensure that you are focused on the real issue and not caught up in the emotions of the situation.

I am certainly not telling you to avoid confrontation. You know I teach a webinar and deliver training programs on how to do that effectively. I am telling you to gain control of an explosive situation. At this point, you have no control. You will not say the right thing. You need time to settle down, gather your wits and your professionalism and take the high road.

When I was much younger, I worked with a man who was very verbal with his frustration. Since I was the new kid on the block, I appeared to be the easiest target. The first time it happened I had absolutely no idea what to say or do, and I was completely dumbfounded and speechless (which quite frankly, rarely happens to me). I said nothing.

One of the other more experienced people in the office came up to me and let me know that saying nothing was the perfect response. Jim wanted to fight, and by not responding, he couldn’t fight with me.

The next time it happened, I again said nothing; but I didn’t feel good about that response because his behaviour was clearly continuing. I was not about to be his verbal punching bag.

The third time it happened, I did say that I was sorry that he felt that way, but that taking out his anger on me was inappropriate and unprofessional. He had just been “told” by a 19-year-old, and he looked juvenile. I knew there was a silent round of applause for me that day. The next day (it took me a while to gather my bravado for this), I approached him, in private, and told him that if he was upset about anything that I did, I would appreciate if he spoke to me privately instead of in front of everyone. I don’t honestly remember what else I said (19 was a long time ago), but I do know that it worked, even though I was shaking in my boots.

Jim found a new target. I didn’t change his behaviour completely, but I did let him know that I wasn’t going to OK with his exploding on me, especially in public. He found someone else who would let him fight.

It is very hard to stand up to a bully. It is very hard to take the high road. It is hard not to say exactly what you are thinking, but it is well worth the effort.

So the next time someone starts screaming at you, imagine that you are being watched by an invisible camera and look as professional, calm and in control as you possibly can be — on the outside, anyway.

As appeared in the Huffington Post on January 3, 2017

Helpful Or Complaining

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

At what point does being helpful become complaining?complain

We have a home in Florida that we use as a vacation rental. We do our best to keep it looking and operating at peak efficiency and comfort. We have great guests, and people seem to enjoy their time while on vacation.

Ed and Gretchen were excited to spend a month at our home and promised they would treat our home just like their own. Except, every day Ed and Gretchen sent me an email about what they thought we should do differently.

“Your pool cleaning company doesn’t do as good as a job as they should. You should look into getting a new company.”

“Your neighbor doesn’t cut her grass often enough. You should ask her to keep her lawn neater as it affects your lawn.”

“The shower drain doesn’t drain very quickly, perhaps a call to the plumber is in order.”

And so on.

At first, everything was positioned as being helpful. They knew that we didn’t live nearby, and they knew that we wanted the house to be perfect for our guests. The first couple of days the emails didn’t bother me. I saw Ed and Gretchen as trying to be helpful.

By day four, it became our daily complaint email. I no longer saw them as being helpful, but as being extremely critical, and somehow indicating that our home was not good enough.

By the end of the month, I dreaded seeing their name in my inbox.

Are you an Ed or Gretchen? Do you see yourself as being helpful, but others see you as being critical?

At work, do you make suggestions such as “If you use a mail merge on that, it will save you a ton of time instead of doing it manually. Do you want me to walk you through how to do a mail merge?” or “You’re still using a Times Roman font? That is so 1990s! Didn’t you know that you should be using a sans serif font now? I suggest you Google that and make the change.”

I’m guessing that when we make comments and suggestions we don’t intend to be condescending or critical. However, they are likely to be perceived that way, especially if you do it frequently.

Here are a few ways to ensure that you are helpful, and not being perceived as critical:

  • Did they ask for your input?I didn’t ask Ed and Gretchen to tell me what was wrong with the house, and at the end of the each daily email, I didn’t ask for what else was missing. I said “Thank you. We will look into that.”That closed comment at the end of the discussion was the first clue that I wasn’t overly receptive to their unasked for feedback. If you are offering suggestions to others and they aren’t asking you for more feedback, stop offering suggestions.
  • Do you find that you often see what others don’t and feel the need to share your observations? That may be perceived as a “know-it-all” by others and will be seen as critical as well.If you are a consultant and are acting in a consulting capacity, your perceptions are appreciated then (and paid for). If you are not, then, you are likely perceived as a complainer.I am a consultant, but unless someone asks me for feedback on things, I don’t offer that. When I attend a conference, I focus on the positives, not what they could do differently. When I am at a friend’s house, I compliment my host, not offer decorating ideas, and when I am working with a coworker, I don’t assume I know the best way to do things; I appreciate there are many ways to get things done properly, and my way isn’t always the best way.
  • Can your advice be acted upon by the person you are giving the advice to?A good friend of mine is keen on customer service. Unfortunately, she offers advice to people who can’t do anything about the advice she offers.Recently at a restaurant, she noticed a few things were not ideal in the restaurant and shared them with our server. When I asked why she bothered sharing it with the server, as she had no control over those things, she responded with “She will tell the manager, and maybe get recognized as having a great idea.”I told her the odds of the server telling the restaurant manager that the menus needed larger print for their older customers were close to zero, and that the server was also not going to tell the manager that the ladies washroom should have a can of air freshener in it either. If she told her manager those things, she would be perceived as being a complainer.When you make an observation, thinking you are being helpful, ask yourself “Is the person I’m sharing this information with in any position to implement my advice?”

The same is true of telling a store cashier that they need more cashiers working during busy times. They can’t do a thing about it, are not likely to bring that information to their boss; and you will be perceived as complaining and not at all helpful.

Offering the occasional piece of advice or feedback is not always bad, but if you are consistently doing it, you might want to question if it is well received or not.

Count how many times a day you offer helpful feedback. If you are offering this help at least once per day, let me give you some unsolicited (and potentially unappreciated) feedback; STOP!

– As appeared in The Huffington Post on December 20, 2016

Avoiding Confrontation Is Not The Answer

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

REFUSING FLOWERS

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

Every once in a while you will encounter a situation where you want to deal with it in a calm, professional manner, and the person with whom you want to deal with, does not want to deal with it at all!

An avoider is someone who truly hates confrontation. They would rather the situation sit and fester than to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us prefer to avoid than to have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not I that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an “issue” occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, you might arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you are willing to deal with the issue and not avoid it.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful that I used “I” language instead of “you” language (to avoid making her defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared for what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message outlined quickly what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so that we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (and thereby avoided me all together) asking to be removed from our distribution list and wanted to avoid further contact from our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly approach that I way I was hoping we could deal with this misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about this, as I wanted to avoid any hard feelings whatsoever. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with these types of issues on email. Be sure to use email as a confirmation tool, instead of a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she was unwilling.

Sometimes we will meet others who are not nearly as professional or courteous as we are. Sometimes we will have to deal with the situation in a manner that makes us uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation follow a few simple rules:
– use “I” language, instead of “you” language
– avoid blame, and focus more on solving the situation
– be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, and are responding to the situation
– take the professional path (the high road), even in your personal confrontations
– know when to walk away

I’m sorry a simple misunderstanding has become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation. I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.

Article by,
Rhonda Scharf Headshot

As appeared in the Huffington Post on December 13, 2016

Why Employee Conflict Is A Good Thing

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

 

Have you dealt with conflict amongst your team lately? If not then you should be concerned.

You see too often leaders try to stop conflict that exists amongst their employees, but the reality is conflict is a natural outcome when putting a diverse group of employees together. In fact there are numerous benefits to employee conflict if it’s managed correctly. Watch the brief video below to learn more. 

Please be sure to subscribe to Shawn’s YouTube channel for more strategies on how to improve your business success.

© Shawn Casemore 2016. All rights reserved.

We Need To Build Bridges, Not Walls

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
 bridge

The U.S. election has unleashed a style of aggression, anger and hatred created like no other. There have been friendships lost, families torn apart, and relationships that will take a very long time to repair. If they even can repair.

Sadly this type of situation happens all the time in the workplace. It could start from union strikes, a bully in the office, or a leader that inspires internal competition and fear.

Unfortunately when things get that bad at work, we usually decide that all the stress and frustration aren’t worth it, and we leave. Perhaps we burn the bridge with the boss, the bully, or the company; and realize that we could never go back. And we are OK with that because we made that choice.

However, in some situations, that choice isn’t an option. A union strike is an example, a divorce is an example, and a divisive election is an example.

Sometimes you can’t run away by building a wall and hiding behind it.

We need to build bridges, not walls.

The question is how do you build that bridge so that you can detach yourself from the emotions the situations causes?

Here are three things you can do to build a bridge instead of a wall:

Don’t Interrupt. When someone is saying something you don’t agree with, or making a statement that makes your skin crawl; don’t interrupt them. By interrupting, you are being the wall, refusing to hear what they have to say. Interruptions are seen as aggressive and rude. Let them finish their statement and then follow the next two steps.

Stay calm. Whatever the disagreement or difference in opinions; it is not personal. Don’t take it personally, and don’t make it personal.

Sadly the fact that many people seem to be taking the election personally is what is causing so much strife. Someone has an opinion that you don’t understand. Their point of view is different than yours. It is not your job to convince them they are wrong and don’t take it personally if they try to convince you that you are wrong.

In a perfect world, we would not launch insults or hate because someone has a different perspective. Unfortunately, it is the way it is. Be the voice of reason, stay calm, don’t take it personally and hopefully others will follow your suit.

Set Boundaries. There are some subjects that will just be off the table for discussion. I’m seeing that on social media today with the U.S. election. People are giving themselves a “free zone” where there is permission NOT to speak about anything election related. The boundary says no political comments allowed. That is a pretty safe and smart thing to do when emotions are high.

In my family there is a topic that we have all agreed will not be brought up in conversation. We realize that not everyone agrees, that no one is happy about, so we just don’t go there. Do not enter into that area of discussion.

If you have decided to build your bridge instead of a wall and the dangerous subject is brought up, it is not unreasonable to say “I am uncomfortable with this line of discussion and I’m requesting we discuss something else.” If the other person continues to have the discussion, give yourself permission to disengage and if necessary leave the room. By engaging in the discussion you are now arguing and this is not the goal. Change the subject, but don’t go there.

Building a bridge doesn’t mean we’ve repaired the divide. It means that we can move past whatever the contentious subject is and continue.

Walls create borders, sides, and promote incivility. Bridges create solutions.

Build a bridge, and get over it.

Article by,

Rhonda Scharf HeadshotRhonda Scharf
Consultant, Speaker, Trainer and Author who works with organizations to save time, money and sanity.

As appeared in the Huffington Post November 9, 2016

How to Deal With Difficult People by Mastering Yourself

Friday, November 11th, 2016

We all have some people in our lives who can be considered “difficult.” They can make life really unpleasant. That is, if we let them! We can deal with difficult people in a number of ways. The amazing thing is, when we combine these elements, we may actually help them become happier and more easy-going as well. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

Dealing with difficult people can be a drain!

The first element in dealing with difficult people is self-control. You have no control over their behaviors or attitudes, but you can always control your own response. For example, what happens when you come across an unpleasant customer service rep, or a surly sales clerk? Or if it’s the flip side of the coin and you are the customer service rep being screamed at by a hostile customer? Do you automatically become tense or do you deliberately maintain your composure? Do you try to become even more cheerful and compassionate or do you automatically become hostile too, in defense of yourself? It’s worth becoming aware of how you normally react when you’re confronted with someone who is being less than pleasant. Remember, you can always choose your response.

Don't get caught up in the negativity!No matter what the situation, you can choose to not get caught up in their negativity. You can choose to not allow them to ruin your day. Instead of letting the situation escalate, you can calm yourself by entering the slower alpha brainwave state, and prevent the automatic fight-or-flight response – in most cases, this automatic negative reaction will not benefit you. All it does is create stress and makes you less in control of your emotions and actions. The fight or flight response has undergone an evolutionary change. It is a survival mechanism based on a physical response to danger – fighting, or running away. But in modern man, that response has evolved into anger and fear, since most of us are too civilized to react with physical violence, and the situations we’re in don’t usually warrant running away. The result is stress. The adrenaline rush is still based on the physical reaction to perceived danger but today, we usually don’t need to fight or run away. Instead, we react emotionally, in the heat of the moment, with anger and fear. You can derail your automatic fight-or-flight response to difficult people by deliberately relaxing yourself immediately before the negativity escalates. The Silva Method teaches several techniques for maintaining your composure in a difficult situation. You can focus on your breath, enter the alpha state and use the Three Fingers Technique for instant self-control and relaxation.

The second element of dealing with difficult people is perception. Again – we can’t control the behaviors and attitudes of others, but we can choose to see them in a different, more compassionate light. It’s not always easy! Slowing your brain’s activity to the alpha level is essential for this to work. In alpha, you can view the person with more understanding and compassion. Maybe they really hate their job but they feel stuck and resentful because they wish they could have a better life but don’t know how to go about it. Maybe they’re having difficulties at home. Maybe they are struggling with a huge stress load. Maybe they don’t realize they are being difficult! Most of us can’t see ourselves the way others see us. We may believe we’re projecting confidence, for example, only to have someone tell us we’re being arrogant. So try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and empathize with them.

The third element is self-awareness. Are YOU coming across as difficult? For example, if you walk into a store to return a defective product, you’re already unhappy and you may unconsciously project negative energy even if you put on a pleasant face. And if you’re feeling stressed and resentful, you may be projecting it more than you think. People pick up on each other’s energetic vibrations. So become more aware of how you approach a situation. Consciously become more approachable, friendly and reasonable before you enter the situation – sometimes, walking in with a smile, makes all the difference – !  Your attitude is all-important. Self-awareness is something that comes easily when you’re in the alpha state.

Emotional mastery helps you deal with difficult peopleThe fourth element is emotional mastery. If you have a difficult family member, you are probably conditioned to automatically respond with some emotion or behavior – irritability, shutting down, anger, weepiness, etc. – so you have to master your emotions. When you feel emotional response, allow it to course through your system without becoming attached to the thoughts that generated the emotion. Let it pass. Think about the situation as you would like it to be. Friendly, cordial… not tense and hurtful. Again, people pick up on each other’s vibes. When you’re conscious of the vibes that someone is projecting, you can choose to either take that energy on, or deflect it with love and compassion. Rephrase the way you think and talk about a person. This will affect the way you deal with them, and may eventually change the way they deal with you as well.

You can choose your response to any situation!The Silva Method teaches that a part of any problem-solving or goal-setting process is to first identify the problem. In this case, you use self-awareness to identify your automatic response, your unconscious pre-conceived attitude, and the emotions that determine your reaction.

Some people aren’t going to change their attitudes no matter what you do. That can’t be helped. They may not have the self-control you do and they may not be aware they can choose their response, too. But you can choose. You can use the Three Fingers Technique to program yourself to be more compassionate, loving and understanding while at the same time programming yourself to be less prone to anger, hostility and fear. They may continue to behave the same way, but your perception of them will change for the better.

 

As appeared on Silva Life System

 

Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to empowering yourself in such situations? Below are ten keys to handling unreasonable and difficult people, with references to my book (click on title): “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People”. Keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb, and not all of the tips may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

1.    Keep Your Cool

Benefits: Maintain self-control. Avoid escalation of problem.

How: The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure; the less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.

When you feel angry or upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of escalate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

2.    “Fly Like an Eagle”

Benefits: More peace of mind. Reduce risk of friction.

How: Some people in our lives are simply not worth tussling with. Your time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. As the saying goes: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!” Whether you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or an annoying relative, be diplomatic and apply the tips from this article when you need to interact with them. The rest of the time, keep a healthy distance. 

3.    Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive

Benefits: Minimize misinterpretation & misunderstanding. Concentrate energy on problem-solving.

How: When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think that my co-worker is ignoring my messages, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

Another way to reduce personalization is to try to put ourselves in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

“My partner is so emotionally distant. It must not be easy to come from a family where people don’t express affection…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

4.    Pick Your Battles

Benefits: Save time, energy and grief. Avoid unnecessary problems and complications.

How: Not all difficult individuals we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. There are two scenarios under which you might decide not to get involved. The first is when someone has temporary, situational power over you. For example, if you’re on the phone with an unfriendly customer service representative, as soon as you hang up and call another agent, this representative will no longer have power over you.

Another situation where you might want to think twice about confrontation is when, by putting up with the difficult behavior, you derive a certain benefit. An example of this would be an annoying co-worker, for although you dislike her, she’s really good at providing analysis for your team, so she’s worth the patience. It’s helpful to remember that most difficult people have positive qualities as well, especially if you know how to elicit them (see keys #5 and 6).

In both scenarios, you have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

5.    Separate the Person From the Issue

Benefits: Establish yourself as a strong problem solver with excellent people skills. Win more rapport, cooperation and respect.

How: In every communication situation, there are two elements present: The relationship you have with this person, and the issue you are discussing. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue, and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. For example:

“I want to talk about what’s on your mind, but I can’t do it when you’re yelling. Let’s either sit down and talk more quietly, or take a time out and come back this afternoon.”

“I appreciate you putting a lot of time into this project. At the same time, I see that three of the ten requirements are still incomplete. Let’s talk about how to finish the job on schedule.”

“I really want you to come with us. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be late like the last few times, we’ll have to leave without you.”

When we’re soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. When we’re firm on the issue, we show ourselves as strong problem solvers.

6.     Put the Spotlight on Them

Benefits: Proactive. Equalize power in communication. Apply appropriate pressure to reduce difficult behavior.

How: A common pattern with difficult people (especially the aggressive types) is that they like to place attention on you to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. The focus is consistently on “what’s wrong,” instead of “how to solve the problem.”

This type of communication is often intended to dominate and control, rather than to sincerely take care of issues. If you react by being on the defensive, you simply fall into the trap of being scrutinized, thereby giving the aggressor more power while she or he picks on you with impunity. A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the difficult person, and the easiest way to do so is to ask questions. For example:

Aggressor: “Your proposal is not even close to what I need from you.”

Response: “Have you given clear thought to the implications of what you want to do?”

Aggressor: “You’re so stupid.”

Response: “If you treat me with disrespect I’m not going to talk with you anymore. Is that what you want? Let me know and I will decide if I want to stay or go.”

Keep your questions constructive and probing. By putting the difficult person in the spotlight, you can help neutralize her or his undue influence over you.

7.    Use Appropriate Humor

Benefits: Disarm unreasonable and difficult behavior when correctly used. Show your detachment. Avoid being reactive. Problem rolls off your back.

How: Humor is a powerful communication tool. Years ago I knew a co-worker who was quite stuck up. One day a colleague of mine said “Hello, how are you?” to him. When the egotistical co-worker ignored her greeting completely, my colleague didn’t feel offended. Instead, she smiled good-naturedly and quipped: “That good, huh?” This broke the ice and the two of them started a friendly conversation. Brilliant.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth, disarm difficult behavior, and show that you have superior composure. In my book (click on title): “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People,” I explain the psychology of humor in conflict resolution, and offer a variety of ways one can use humor to reduce or eliminate difficult behavior.

8.    Change from Following to Leading

Benefit: Leverage direction and flow of communication.

How: In general, whenever two people are communicating, one is usually doing more leading, while the other is doing more following. In healthy communication, two people would take turns leading and following. However, some difficult people like to take the lead, set a negative tone, and harp on “what’s wrong” over and over.

You can interrupt this behavior simply by changing the topic. As mentioned earlier, utilize questions to redirect the conversation. You can also say “By the way…” and initiate a new subject. When you do so, you’re taking the lead and setting a more constructive tone.

9.    Confront Bullies (Safely)

Benefits: Reduce or eliminate harmful behavior. Increase confidence and peace of mind.

How: The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. This is true in schoolyards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

On an empathetic note, studies show that many bullies are victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses bullying behavior, but may help you consider the bully in a more equanimous light.

“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” — Tom Hiddleston

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

“I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.” — Shay Mitchell

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counseling, legal, law enforcement, or administrative professionals on the matter. It’s very important to stand up to bullies, and you don’t have to do it alone.

10.     Set Consequence

Benefits: Proactive not reactive. Shift balance of power. Win respect and cooperation when appropriately applied.

How: The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills we can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the challenging individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

In conclusion, to know how to handle unreasonable and difficult people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess. You are on your way to leadership success!

Article by,

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.
Communication Success
For more information, write to commsuccess@nipreston.com (link sends e-mail), or visit www.nipreston.com

The 5 Most Difficult Employees in the Office (and How to Deal With Them)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Chances are you’ve dealt with your fair share of unsavory co-workers, employees, and bosses. And every time, you learn a little bit more about how to deal with the difficult scenarios they throw at you.

5 ways to diffuse political arguments at work

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
5 ways to diffuse political arguments at work

We’re exactly two months from Election Day, and the closer we get to Nov. 8, the more prevalent election discussions will become in the office. Fortunately, Americans have the ability to openly discuss and debate candidates and the divisive issues they raise. However, not everyone is articulate or open to constructive discourse.

As such, political conversations at work can become heated or overly personal and can lead to unnecessary tension in the office. Here are five ways to diffuse awkward conversations before they become heated arguments.

1. Go along

Polite nods and active listening are the most common ways to avoid arguments. The risk is the person on his soap box springing off his feelings about gun control will think you agree with him. If that’s your boss, it might be OK. But if not and you truly disagree with what’s being said, just be aware of the possible implications of your silence.

2. Ask questions

A great way to handle any overly passionate person is to ask questions about her passion. It helps you control the situation while allowing her to continue talking about the topic. Think of it like an interview and ask open-ended questions. Once it goes on long enough, you can always interrupt her, tell her you’ll have to finish out later and get back to work.

3. Change the topic to talking about politics at work

A colleague of mine who is also a consultant uses this one all the time. As soon as the conversation turns to opinions and declarations about candidates, she says how excited she is that someone brought it up and asks everyone within earshot their opinion about talking politics at work.

This approach requires active participation in managing the conversation, but it usually results in a win for everyone by exposing how people feel about the discussions themselves. Normally, those in favor of it go off and debate to their hearts are content, leaving the uninterested parties to their work.

4. Excuse yourself, involve someone else

Sometimes it is your cubicle neighbor who insists on recapping every campaign trail tidbit first thing in the morning, making it difficult for you to avoid. In such cases, it may be helpful to involve HR to remind everyone of the workplace policy about political discussions.

No HR? No workplace policy? Then find the person in the office who everyone listens to and get his advice on how to handle it.

5. Look … it’s football!

Sometimes distraction is the easiest way to go — especially when you’re stuck in the break room listening to John and Sallie argue about America’s greatness for the hundredth time and they once again try to enlist you for support. Tell them you are tired of politics for now and ask them if they watched football over the weekend. This sports distraction may help you eat your leftovers in peace for today.

The bottom line is: November will be here soon, and no one will know how you voted. Find some patience and a way to embrace these exercises in democracy. Remember, this kind of thing only happens once every four years — try to enjoy it!

About the Author

Catherine Iste

Catherine Iste is CEO of Humint Advisors, Inc., an operations consultancy creating sustainable systems that inspire productivity and efficiency. Catherine’s specialties and interests include difficult HR and organizational dynamics issues, the pursuit of work/life balance, ethics and discussing and writing about them all. Feel free to contact her at: contactus@humintadvisors.com.

8 Tips To Help You Deal With Conflict Better

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

How do you deal with conflict? Are you a person who holds onto everything or do you let your anger out?

Conflict affects our attitude, which impacts our ability to be productive. Conflict is destructive if not positively handled. It damages peace and orderliness within us as relationships are broken. Our ability to trust people is hindered, and we pull away rather than build relationships.

C = closed-minded
O = opinionated
N = negative attitude
F = frequent frustrations
L = low self-esteem
I = ignorance
C = creates hostile work environment
T = temperamental

Now is the time to resolve conflicts or any long-time resentment. Conflict actually can be good if we use positive energy and strategies to deal with it. Here are a few quick ideas:

1. Listen carefully in order to understand the other person’s point of view.
2. Solicit ideas from the other person. Ask, “How do you see us working better together?”
3. Be clear on the real issue of conflict. Make sure it isn’t your perception.
4. Stick to the facts when confronting someone.
5. Acknowledge the other person’s good points.
6. Maintain the other person’s self-esteem.
7. Make every effort to approach the other person directly.
8. Be open and honest; don’t hint.

BY

13 Tools for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace, with Customers and in Life

Friday, July 15th, 2016

by Lee Jay Berman

Conflict happens. It is inevitable. It is going to happen whenever you have people with different expectations. This makes conflict management critical, whether avoiding arguments, disputes, lasting conflict or ultimately, litigation. Conflict can be avoided if steps are taken early in a discussion to diffuse anger and facilitate communication, and it can be resolved by applying a series of thoughtfully applied steps. As a full-time mediator and trainer in the fields of negotiation and conflict resolution, I see conflict in its final stages – full blown litigation or on the verge of it in pre-litigation mode. What I have learned in seeing these disputes for 10 years is that most of them could have been resolved in the earliest stages if the people involved applied some of the skills that mediators use to resolve conflict. And wouldn’t it be great if companies could resolve these disputes before each side spent hundreds of thousands in litigation costs, before the employee was terminated or before the customer or working relationship was gone forever? Here are some tools for avoiding and resolving disputes in the early stages, before they become full-blown conflicts:

1. Stay Calm.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing gives one so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” The thing that leads to conflict is escalation. What starts people escalating is their anger. Most of us stop listening to understand as we get angry. Instead, we start listening in order to argue back. Remaining calm is essential for performing these tools. To remain calm, it helps to look at the big picture. If you think about it, most every dispute gets resolved eventually. So when conflict inevitably happens, it is helpful to stop and think that, chances are, it is going to be resolved eventually. As such, why not begin problem solving now? Finally, it is a fact that in our busy lives with rush hour traffic, cell phones, PDAs, overfilled e-mail boxes, too many clients and not enough support, that we are all a little more stressed than we would like to be. When a conflict arises, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to ask yourself, “What might I be bringing to the dispute?” We can usually look at another person and figure that maybe he/she had a conflict at home or that he/she has been under tremendous pressure. However, we are not usually self-aware enough to ask ourselves what we might have going on. It is important in avoiding later embarrassment by checking in with our own personal boiling point before responding.

2. Listen to Understand.

Now, picture a dispute in which you were recently involved. Maybe it was this morning leaving the house, with a co-worker or client or even with a family member. As you replay that experience, ask yourself how much listening was going on. My bet is that any listening was only being done to formulate an argument back to prove your point. When most of us get into a dispute, the first thing we do is stop listening. The only way to settle a dispute or solve any kind of a problem is to listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Perhaps they will surprise you with reason, or their point is actually true. In the mediations that I do, I often learn what people’s underlying interests are by letting them go on and on telling their perspective of an issue until they give me the one thing that is standing in the way of them resolving it. They may start out by degrading the product and personalizing it by saying those of us who delivered it are all incompetent, but I find that this is little more than their anger speaking. What they really want is their product fixed, not to insult us personally.

Psychologists tell us that anger is a secondary emotion and that it is usually triggered as a defense mechanism to cover up hurt or fear. When someone is angry, there is usually some hurt or fear that he/she is embarrassed about, or perhaps even unaware of because the anger is so all consuming. In order to diffuse people’s anger, you must listen to them. Hear them out. Let them go until they have run out of gas. Let them vent as long as they can until they begin to calm down. You then will see a person start to slow down some, and begin to feel safe enough to finally tell you that what frustrated him or her so much was that the salesperson never returned any phone calls, and/or the customer service person kept trying to place blame elsewhere, rather than taking responsibility and apologizing for the product being unacceptable.

The best thing you can do to get people to the point where they are willing to show some vulnerability and trust you with some of the real reasons why they are upset is to engage in “Active Listening.” Active listening means giving them active physical and verbal signs that you are with them and understand what they are saying. Simple things like nodding and saying, “Uh huh” or “OK, go on” can make the speaker feel as if his/her story is welcomed by you and that you want to continue. On the phone, people hear dead silence and cannot read your reaction to their complaints and thoughts. Given that we all sometimes fear the worst, people tend to shut down and stop feeling it is safe to continue telling their story.

My friend and colleague Jim Melamed, a divorce mediator and trainer based in Eugene, Ore., said: “You cannot effectively move toward conflict resolution until each participant experiences him/herself to be fully heard with regard to their perspective – what they want and why.” That means, if someone says that the product he/she bought from you is unacceptable, and they are interrupted and asked what would be acceptable before they have finished telling all about the problem, that person gets the message that all you want to do is fix the problem. The impression is that you do not care about them or the problem you had with your product, and that can feel a little like being swept under the carpet. A good customer service person in a situation like this would let the client finish before asking if there were any other problems. This may seem counter-intuitive because it might bring on even more of the same, but this is what you want. People build trust as they are listened to. If they had another problem with the delivery timing or any other facet of the transaction, this is when you need to hear it – at the outset, not later once you feel as if you have met all of their original concerns. The only way to solve a problem is to get all of the broken pieces on the table at once before you begin trying to “glue it back together.”

The most useful phrases in this part of the process (what mediators call the “Opening Statement”) are questions such as, “Can I ask you – what about that bothered you so much?” or “What about that was so important to you?” These invite people to go deeper into the problem and tell you what the “real” problem is. Usually, this is where you hear that their boss is upset and they are afraid for their job or some underlying concern. This is a problem that might be handled with something as simple as a letter of apology, from you, the salesman or the president of your company, addressed to them with a copy to their boss, taking full responsibility and apologizing for the problem. Then, you will have a customer you might be able to keep.

3. Accentuate the Positive.

It is important to find some commonalities, or create them, between you and the person on the other end. It is helpful and empathetic to say, “Oh boy, I know what you are going through. I’ve had a similar situation just recently. Let me see what I can do about this.” This serves to normalize the situation. It tells someone that he/she is not the only one who has gone through this and that his or her reaction to it is normal. That calms people right away.

4. State Your Case Tactfully.

The key here is to help people understand your perspective on things without making them defensive. To the extent you can disarm them, they will be more able to hear what you are really saying. A couple of tips are to own what is yours – apologize for what you or your team did wrong and do it first. This enables them to hear what you have to say next. Also, try not to state issues of difference as fact. Leave a little benefit of the doubt. Rather than insisting something arrived on schedule, it is better to acknowledge any room for doubt by acknowledging, “My information shows them arriving on schedule. I’ll have to take a closer look into this.” While you may still be right, clearly you have to gather more information to convince them of that, and if you are not right, then you do not have to apologize for misstating things. It also is helpful to state your position along with your interests. What that means is that instead of maintaining that there is nothing wrong with your product, which is purely argumentative and does not offer any support for your position, it is better to offer something helpful, such as providing another perspective by sending someone over to inspect the product in person. That way, the customer can show and describe exactly why the product is not working as necessary. Your position is the bottom line of what you are willing to do. Your interests are the reasons behind that decision. For example, it might be your position that you cannot take any product back or rescind the contract. However, your reason for that – your interest – may be that your bonus is tied directly to your returns, and that you have every incentive in the world to solve this problem another way. You may also offer what some of those things are, so that you are not just taking away something from them or denying their request, but offering positive alternatives in its place.

One way to do this is to use “I Messages.” An “I” message sounds like, “When you didn’t come home last night, your father and I got really worried. What we would like you to do next time is call if you’re going to be late, so that we know you’re OK because we love you and care about you.” That is how most of our parents were when we were teenagers, right? Seriously, can you imagine how we would have reacted if they had put it this way instead of the scenario we remember of being grounded for life while stomping off to bed? “I” messages are important because they describe the experience through the speaker’s eyes, rather than simply the position (in this case the punishment). That disarms the person you are speaking to, and it takes the fight out of their next statement back to you.

5. Attack the Problem, Not the Person.

Your points will be heard more clearly if you can depersonalize your comments and point only at the issue. Rather than accusing people of “always messing things up,” it is better to say, “We’ll have to take a closer look at why this keeps happening.” In most statements that we make in a dispute, we are fighting with our own anger and are tempted to put a zinger into the point we are trying to get across. You will be heard better and improve your chances of resolving the issue the way you want if you can catch yourself and take the zinger out. Obviously, this is easier with e-mail and requires great concentration when in a face-to-face disagreement.

6. Avoid the Blame Game.

Assigning blame is only helpful in one instance in problem solving – if you assign it to yourself. Generally speaking, figuring out whose fault something is does not do any good if the goal is to fix a problem. It is a diversion and sometimes a costly one because if a person feels blamed, he/she often checks out of a conversation. The trick to resolving clashes is to focus on problem solving, rather than pointing fingers. Focus on what you and the others can do to solve a problem and make it better, and it will be behind you before you know it.

7. Focus on the Future, Not the Past.

In the past tense, we have the purchase order, the contract, the agreement and the deal as it was understood by all involved. The present and future tenses are where the solution ends. Rather than focusing on what went wrong or who should have done what, the secret to dispute resolution is to treat it like problem solving and focus on what can be done to resolve the problem. Once that is done, companies can look to the past tense to analyze what went wrong and how to improve quality control and efficiency. However, when there is a problem that has an angry customer or a disgruntled employee, the solution is all that anyone is interested in.

8. Ask the Right Kind of Questions.

Questions such as “Why is that?” or “What did you think it would be?” make a person who you are talking to defensive. They inherently question the person’s judgment or opinion, as well as coming off as curt. More often that not, people ask these short, direct questions, the type that can sound like a police officer’s interrogation or a lawyer’s cross-examination. These questions are designed to get just what you want from someone, rather than to permit them to tell you what they want you to know about something.If you want someone to answer you with real information, rather than just arguing back, it is best to give them a little information first. For example, “Since I don’t have a copy of the P.O. in front of me, it would help me to investigate this if you could tell me more about how the colors on your order are described.” Telling them why you are asking, puts your intent first, so they don’t have to guess it. This questioning style tells a person that you are trying to do your job and to figure out some facts to get to reach a solution. By delivering your request in a poised and attentive tone, , it makes the person you are asking less defensive and gets you more of what you want. The other type of question that is especially helpful when you are trying to gather information is an open-ended question. These are the opposite of directive questions, and they invite the other person to tell you what he or she thinks is important about the situation. “Can you tell me what happened from the beginning?” or “Sounds as if this was really frustrating for you” can give you information that you might later use to problem solve.

9. Pick Your Battles.

It is also important when asking questions to remember to Pick Your Battles. Human nature makes us want to be right, even to the point of being defensive or arguing points that do not matter in the big picture. It is even fair game to ask the other person, “On a scale of one-to-10, how important is this issue to you?” If an issue is a five to you and a nine to the person you are talking to, it is best to give that point up and use the same scale when an item is really important to you. After all, business relations are, like my brother’s future father-in-law once told him about marriage, a “60-60 proposition.” Most people think it is supposed to be 50-50, but the truth is, when adjusted for each person’s perspective on how much they givevs. how much they receive, it really is a 60-60 proposition. Another marital proposition is also helpful here, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

10. Link Offers.

Car salesmen do this all the time. They ask you what you want your monthly payment to be and then set the price of the car and the interest rate on the loan or lease so that they can match your monthly payment. Essentially, it’s a way of saying, “I can either do this or that, which would be better for you?” It really is just sales skills – giving people the choice between two positives, so that they feel as if you are trying to help.

11. Be Creative.

Brainstorm. Remember that everything is negotiable. Feel free to think outside of the box in order to expand the pie. Make it so that no idea is too far fetched. Being creative with resolutions takes longer, but can yield a true win-win solution. The best solution to a dispute is to get more business out of it. As such, one common problem-solving technique is to propose that instead of a cash refund, giving clients a deep discount on future orders in order to show what a good job you are capable of doing for them. Many of the lawsuits I settle come away with win-win solutions, where instead of just compromising, we actually collaborate to reach a solution that benefits everyone. This requires listening when asking the open-ended questions and gathering morsels of good information that you will later use to formulate proposals that meet their interests. For example, you might learn about particulars that affected an order. From here, you can propose creative solutions that replace things such as broken items, or instead of using the money to re-do the entire order, you can use less money to ship a few dozen shirts with their logo on them so that your counterpart can look like a hero in front of the boss. These kinds of fixes make clients look good and keep them loyal to you, even after an initial dispute.

12. Be Confident.

You can do this! Many people are afraid of confrontation and shy away from it. I have taught everyone, from housewives and high school grads to named senior partners in law firms and CEOs, how to do these simple steps. The process works. All you have to do is follow the steps.

Furthermore, you must do this. Now that you have these tools, it is imperative that you do something about it. You owe it to your customers and your co-workers.

13. Celebrate Agreement!

This kind of negotiation is a hard process. It requires two people to remain in an uncomfortable, potentially confrontational position for a long time to rebuild trust and be creative while trying to figure out the best, rather than the fastest, solution. Once it is accomplished, both you and the person you are talking to deserve a good pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with going to lunch or dinner to celebrate the resolution of a dispute that could have been destructive, but that ended with a win-win solution where everyone was satisfied. This is an important process for avoiding more serious disputes such as lawsuits and losing hard-earned customers. Congratulate yourself and your partner in this solution. After all, nothing is more important than your company and its survival. Nothing is better for your company’s survival than learning to make peace and resolve the inevitable disputes that will arise. Learn to cultivate peace with customers, suppliers, employees, labor and management.

Utilizing these tools takes patience and generally requires changing old behaviors. However, if people on the front lines, in human resources, customer service and client relations, use simple tools such as these, they would resolve most disputes at that level, keeping them out of the legal department and out of the mediator’s office.

Biography


Lee Jay Berman is a mediator based in Los Angeles. He founded the American Institute of Mediation in 2009, after serving as Director of Pepperdine’s flagship Mediating the Litigated Case program from 2002-2009.

This is why you will lose your argument

Friday, June 24th, 2016

So the Great Barrier Reef has not been listed as endangered by UNESCO. And same-sex marriage is high on the national agenda. Care to argue the case? Careful, there’s a minefield ahead.

There is one thing that is poorly understood about arguing in the public arena. It is the reason that a strong case will often lose its momentum and that an obvious logical conclusion will be missed. It is one of the reasons our political leaders fail utterly to have a reasoned conversation with the population and with each other. And it’s why denialists on just about any issue can sidestep rational debate.

It’s called the “point at issue” and describes what the argument is actuallyabout. If you move away from this simple idea, the argument will be lost in a fog of related but unnecessary issues.

Finding the point

Before we can argue, we must actually agree on something: what we are arguing about. If we can’t do this, and then stick to it, there will be no progress.

Let’s consider the Great Barrier Reef as an example. Some media commentary would have us believe that the fact the reef was not listed means any concerns about its well-being are entirely misplaced.

This misses the point completely. As many articles have pointed out, that the reef has not been listed does not mean any environmental concerns are unjustified.

The point at issue is whether the reef meets the UNESCO criteria for listing as endangered. It is another point entirely to say the reef is not at risk. Conflating the two muddies the waters.

As another example, imagine someone comments that locking up refugees is psychologically damaging to them. Another person says that the policy is much better under the current government than it was under the last.

The argument has shifted from whether the processes is damaging to who manages the process best. It is not the same thing. If that is not noticed, the argument usually degenerates and we are no closer to finding the truth of the original claim.

For a third example, the federal treasurer, Joe Hockey, recently had to defend spending his accommodation entitlements when he is in Canberra on a house owned by his wife. He tried to argue the necessity of politicians to be able to claim expenses as they move into the capital for parliamentary business. But these are two different points. Arguing the second does not progress the first.

Deniers of climate science engage in shifting the point at issue as a standard part of their argument technique. One example involves moving from the fact that there is a rapid shift in global temperature to that climate has always changed.

Another example is moving from consilience and consensus in climate science as indicators of the degree of confidence within the scientific community to trying to make the debate that consensus is not proof. In both cases the latter point is true, but it’s not the point under discussion.

Changing the point at issue often flags an attempt to move the argument onto more favourable ground rather than engage with it on the offered terms.

Focusing our thinking is not easy

This type of intellectual sidestepping is the root of the straw man argument. It is the source of the common phrase “beside the point”, indicating that it is not directly relevant.

If we follow this path, the original argument remains unaddressed and we have only the illusion of progress.

The trick is to recognise when the point at issue shifts, but to do this you need to be very clear at the start about what the original argument is. If you are not clear, you are vulnerable to defeat, losing to an argument that was not your point in the first place. Recognising this shift is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.

One of the reasons we do not focus well on the point at issue, and are sometimes very bad at defining it, is that our minds range across related topics very well. We see connections, implications and perspectives on many issues. This is a useful tendency, but one that needs to be curbed to develop a sharp argumentative focus.

If the point at issue is that smoking is bad for you, don’t start talking about the individual liberty to smoke. If it’s that biodiversity in forests is important, don’t make it about logging jobs. If it’s about how well a political party is doing a job, don’t turn it into a comparison with the other mob.

Stick to the point, sort it out properly, and then move on to the next one.

How we frame an issue can define the argument

Finding the point at issue is also a matter of framing the issue correctly.

Realise, for example, that the point of not teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is one of quality control, not of academic freedom. Or that teaching about religion in schools is not the same thing as instruction in specific religions. Or that same-sex marriage is about equality of rights, not degrading them.

As Christopher Hitchens so succinctly put it when considering the issue of homosexual marriage more than a decade ago:

This is an argument about the socialisation of homosexuality, not the homosexualisation of society.

Politicians are masters at changing frames and the point at issue. Witness the use of phrases like “what the public really wants to know” or “what’s really important here” to avoid addressing the issue raised in an interview.

Journalists are often very lax about this, allowing the point at issue to change without bringing it back and pressing for an answer to the original question.

One of the skills of advanced argumentation – and of good journalism – is knowing how to keep things on track. This includes the ability to recognise when the argument shifts and to say “that’s not what we are talking about”.

It also includes knowing how to go on and explain to people that their argument may be relevant to the topic in general but it’s not relevant to the specific point at issue.

You might like to argue that many of the topics I’ve mentioned should be explored in full. That we should talk about biodiversity and jobs when discussing forests, for example. But if you think that, you missed the point at issue of this article.

There’s no reason not to pursue other arguments and other points at issue, but let’s take them one at a time for the sake of clarity and improvement. This is what will improve public debate and better hold politicians to account.

That’s what I’m talking about.

 

Author,
Peter Ellerton
Lecturer in Critical Thinking,
The University of Queensland

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Friday, June 10th, 2016
Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton saidway back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

Just as you do, others tend to behave better when they feel seen and valued — especially since insecurity is what usually prompts them to act badly in the first place.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.


Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebookand connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.

How to Manage Conflict at Work

Friday, May 27th, 2016

To succeed as a manager, you can’t be a conflict-avoider.

Effectively managing conflict is arguably the hardest thing a manager has to do. I was recently reminded of this by a comment from a reader in response to a post on Forbes.com (10 Things Successful Business People Aren’t Daunted By). Her observation? “I’ll be printing this off and putting it where I can read it every morning,” she wrote. “Dealing well with conflict (instead of running and hiding) has been one of my biggest challenges as a relatively new manager, so thank you for reminding me that conquering that fear of conflict is worth it!”

Actually she shouldn’t feel bad – she has lots of company. While now and then you’ll come across a manager who enjoys conflict, really relishes confrontation and dispute, the vast majority of people would much prefer not to deal with it, if given a choice.

Unfortunately, as a manager, if you’re going to do your job, you have no choice.

Looking back now over my own career I can recall conflicts with the many people I managed over just about everything: salaries, promotions, recognition, evaluations, other team members, being managed too much, not being managed enough, projects that were too tough, projects that were too boring… and once in a while someone who was just for no discernible reason downright insubordinate. I never liked conflict. But I realized early on that if I expected to be paid a reasonable amount of money for management, trying my best to deal with conflict fairly and directly was a crucial part of the job.

In that spirit, following are a few things I learned about it:

Accept the inevitability of conflict in management – As mentioned above, just recognize that addressing it is part of the job. Don’t waste energy ruminating about it, and don’t feel bad you feel bad about it. Just accept it for what it is: It comes with the managerial territory.

Don’t be a conflict-avoider – Difficult interpersonal workplace problems won’t disappear by ignoring them; they’ll only get worse. Chronic conflict-avoiders will end up losing the respect of their employees – and their own management.

Stay calm – Even when provoked, keep a close hold on your temper; stay as calm as you possibly can. There are some memorable lines from the famous Rudyard Kipling poem If:If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you/But make allowance for their doubting too… And after several verses the poem concludes: Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it/And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son. (Or a woman… Kipling wrote this in 1895.) Though it wasn’t written for business, I always felt there was management relevance in the message.

Maintain the moral high ground – A close cousin to the point directly above. You’remanagement. You’re the voice of reason. Don’t lose control or pull rank or cede the moral high ground – calm control is a much more advantageous position manage and negotiate from.

Partner with HR – Though Human Resources operatives have become joking stereotypeson TV and in movies… I’ll state this in bold letters: When I was in management, my colleagues in Human Resources were of inestimable valuable to me on many occasions. I never hesitated to call on them when I faced difficult employee conflicts. They were unfailingly an objective third party, a sounding board, a valuable source of reasonable counsel. My philosophy was always, In delicate situations, get all the help you can.

Document meticulously – When serious conflict occurs, as a manager you’ll need accurate records of it. During employee performance appraisals, you’ll need clear documentation to avoid discussions dissolving into “he said/she said” disputes. And when it’s necessary to terminate someone, you of course need detailed documentation (again, a time to work closely with HR) or you may well have legal exposure.

Don’t’ think in terms of “winning,” so much as constructively resolving – No point winning the battle but losing the war. Management‘s role is not to “defeat the enemy” (even though that may feel cathartic at times!), but to elicit optimal performance from the area you’re managing. Accordingly, best not to leave bodies in your wake but to get conflicts resolved fairly, expeditiously, and move forward as constructively as you can. Get closure and move ahead… the sooner, the better.

I don’t want to give the illusion any of this is easy.

It isn’t. It never is.

But if you can develop a consistent, rational approach to managing conflict, it can make your difficult job a lot less stressful than it would be without it.

Victor Lipman

Article by,
Victor Lipman

Victor is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World (Prentice Hall Press).

How To Spot A Toxic Boss Before You Take The Job

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Our friend Yvonne quit her new job after six months. “I should have known my ex-boss was a psycho control freak,” she said.

“Were there signs of his tendencies during the interview process?” we asked.

“There was one sign, a huge one,” said Yvonne. “I can’t believe I missed it. He basically came right out and told me what it was going to be like working for him. I took the job anyway. I talked myself into it. I said, ‘I can make this work.’”

Of course we wanted to hear about the big sign that Yvonne missed during the interview process.

“My boss walked me out of the building to my car after my second interview,” said Yvonne. “When we got to my car he said, ‘You’re an average writer and a so-so editor, and I can make you much better at both writing and editing.’”

 “Whoa!” we exclaimed. “That’s what he said?”

“Yes, and I should have said ‘Gee, I’d hate for you to be stuck with someone who falls so far short of your requirements,’” said Yvonne. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. I got in my car and I went home.”

“People do tend to broadcast their baggage,” we said. “Don’t feel bad, Yvonne. It’s easy to miss those signs when you’re thinking ‘If I get this job I can pay off my credit cards!’”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking when I took the job,” said Yvonne.

If you can check in frequently with your body during your interview process, you won’t be as likely to take a job working for someone who is going to crush your mojo and leave you battered, mojo-depleted and doubting your own abilities.

You can say, “No thanks!” to a toxic manager and keep your job search going, but only if you tell your fearful brain to pipe down and listen to your body, instead.

That takes some effort. For starters, you have to process every interview in your head and on paper. You have to talk through your interviews with a friend — in the best case, a cynical friend who will stop you and say, “The manager said what?”

You have to think through every job interview and every other interaction you have with your possible next boss, because in your excitement about being in contention for a job offer, you can lose your bearings.

You have to be on guard or you are likely to fall into the Vortex. The Vortex is the whirling place we fall into when a company is obviously interested in us. We are excited to have a real, live job opportunity in front of us. Our judgment can fly out the window.

We’re flattered that they like us, even if we’re not sure if we like them!

Plenty of people, me included, have accepted job offers because we were so happy to get a job offer.

We forgot about our own needs. We fell  into the Vortex!

Watch for these 10 warning signs that your possible new boss will make your life a living hell if you sign up to work for him or her:

1. Your hiring manager spends a lot of your interview time together talking about himself or herself. Maybe you’re a great listener. Is that what the boss is looking for — someone who will patiently listen to him or her pontificate? If so, watch out!

2. Your hiring manager asks you detailed questions about how you accomplished tasks and projects at your past jobs, but shows no curiosity about you as a person. He or she couldn’t care less where you grew up, how you chose your career path or what your goals are. That’s a red flag!

photo by Liz Ryan

3. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to try to suck free consulting advice out of you. Once you get home from the interview, he or she has more demands — to write a free marketing plan, for instance. If the manager does this while you’re interviewing for the job, don’t expect things to get better once you have the job.

4. Your hiring manager tells you what’s wrong with you before even hiring you, the way Yvonne’s manager did.

5. Your hiring manager talks about employees he or she has fired in the past. That’s a terrible sign. Run away from a job opportunity where the boss regales you with tales of the terrible former employees he or she has had to put up with. You will hate the job if you get it.

6. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to fill you in on the corporate political scene. Our client Miranda met with her hiring manager after hours, when everyone in the office had gone home. Her prospective new boss asked her “Can you get me promoted to Director level within one year?” She said “I really couldn’t say”  and didn’t come back for a second interview when invited to.7. Your hiring manager spends half of your interview time talking about her problems with her boss. You want to say, “If I’m here to give you a counseling session, you’ll have to write me a check!” but you bite your lip and draw a big red X through this job opportunity in your mind. Life is too short to work for fearful weenies.

8. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to tell you how smart or accomplished he or she is. That’s a sure sign of insecurity. When people show you who they are, believe them!

9. Your hiring manager quizzes you about insignificant details in your resume instead of talking about the work you’d be doing in the new job. Gradually over the course of your interview it hits you that this person doesn’t know how to construct an intelligent question about your background, so they devolve into asking nit-picky questions, instead. Don’t take a job working for a person with no vision!

10. Your hiring manager reminds you over and over how many awesome people applied for this job and how lucky you are to have received an interview. Run away from a person like this. They are mired in fear and are checking in to make sure you are exactly the obedient, grateful, passive and docile sheep they are looking for!

The first time you say, “No thanks!” to a job interview, your fearful brain will beat you up for three to five days afterward. You’ll go back and forth in your mind: “Should I have told those people no? I still need a job. Maybe that was a bad decision.”

It wasn’t a bad decision. Your body is your best guide. Our species has been evolving for eons. Your gut knows which people are healthy for you and which people aren’t.

The relationship between you and your boss is a critical one not only for your career’s sake, but for your health as well. Choose your next boss wisely!

 

 Article by Liz Ryan ,
Bio: I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

The 3 Secrets to Conflict Resolution

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Good leaders are great at resolving conflict. Great leaders keep conflict from arising in the first place. Here’s how they do it.

In engineering “friction” can be defined as any waste of energy that has been harnessed to produce work. Entrepreneurs grow wealthy by reducing the economic friction between buyers and sellers. In business there is a form of friction that all too often kills plans, wastes energy, and ruins friendships: people fighting with each other.

I’ve investigated my fair share of work place squabbles. I almost never found two-legged villains at the heart of the problem. Instead I discovered hard-working, well intentioned people that had unintentionally allowed a disembodied demon into their midst: Ambiguity.

In one instance a sales department and shipping department were at each other’s throats. Both sides were convinced that they were the victims of a combination of incompetence and evil intentions on the part of the other. After scraping away the rancor, I discovered that the sales department was upset because product was not being shipped “on time.” Shipping was fed up with getting a flood of orders late in the day that they could not possibly ship without working into the night. The real problem was that both sides were operating from entirely different assumptions about what “on time” meant. I quickly brokered an agreement: any order received by shipping before 2:00 PM would ship the same day. Later orders would ship the next. I wrote the new policy down and distributed it. When the ambiguity disappeared so did the problem and the rancor.

I have often argued that a trait that distinguishes great leaders is an ability to creatively use the tension produced by ambiguity. Great leaders don’t live in a black or white world. Instead they love shades of grey. However, this trait is most effective when applied to strategic decisions. It is ambiguity surrounding execution that so often leads to disaster. Business execution is like an intricate, multi-faceted relay race. Ambiguity about who is passing the baton to whom by when almost certainly means that the precious baton will hit the floor and the post-mortem recriminations will begin. In business, “crisp execution” is the Holy Grail, and crisp execution relies on eliminating ambiguity.

Again and again I’ve brought warring parties together and patiently heard them out. Then I would politely make a request: “Where’s the paper trail?” In almost every case there was none. All I had to work with were verbal communications based solely on memory, open to an almost infinite variety of contradictory interpretations. This internal friction was usually not the result of either incompetence or bad intentions. It was the result of people operating from entirely different assumptions about their respective responsibilities.

I have developed a tactic to eliminate the problems caused by ambiguity before they can arise. While my memory is still fresh, I summarize in writing everything that was agreed upon in a meeting or phone call and send it to all the participants. I make sure to invite everyone to either “sign off” or get back to me if my summary is either incorrect or incomplete. I also copy everyone not at the meeting that may be affected by our decisions in order to avoid “blindsiding” them further down the road.

We often hear that success is largely a factor of how many friends we make. However, success also depends on how few enemies we make. Clear, written communication has proven remarkably successful at keeping my enemies to a minimum. This discipline also forces me during meetings to focus on negotiating clear, unambiguous, mutually agreed upon action items. This in turn moves the meeting, project or sale along much more quickly.

The vast majority of internal squabbles are leadership problems rather than people problems. It is management’s job to make sure that the process by which people enter into agreements is formalized without becoming burdensome. When disputes arise from miscommunication and misunderstanding, it is management’s fault for not having the policies, procedures, and processes in place that prevent such conflicts in the first place.

In our own company, we made it clear that we had zero interest in refereeing “I said, she said” disputes. It was our policy that substantive meetings should always produce an internal “contract;” and that these contracts should be clearly written, mutually agreed upon, and meticulously kept. Staying on top of this process took discipline, but in the long run it paid off handsomely in increased productivity, team work, and perhaps most importantly, morale. Once our people discovered that without the proper documentation their pleas for “justice” would fall on deaf ears, they quickly adapted and disputes were practically non-existent.

The first step to removing crippling ambiguity is overcoming our distaste for writing and learning how to write clearly and unambiguously. A commitment to follow up “soon” is ambiguous. A promise to follow up at 3:00 PM on November 16th is not.

The second step is overcoming the misconception that creating a paper trail is a waste of valuable time. My typical summary takes three minutes to write. These communications not only make things run far more smoothly, but have saved me countless hours in ex post facto conflict resolution.

Step three is overcoming our tendency for using ambiguity as tool for staying off the hook. Ambiguity in business is often connected to our fear of accountability. We resist making clear commitments because someone may hold us accountable if something goes wrong. Much of human interaction, consciously or unconsciously, is an attempt to hold others accountable while avoiding accountability ourselves. We crave wiggle room and plausible deniability. As a result, we often default to ambiguous commitments like “I’ll try” rather than “I’ll do.” Only by courageously embracing accountability in our business and personal lives can the friction of ambiguity be successfully overcome. If you want accountability from others, you must offer it first yourself.

 

Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to empowering yourself in such situations? Below are ten keys to handling unreasonable and difficult people. Keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb, and not all of the tips may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

For more in-depth tools on how to effectively handle difficult individuals, download free excerpts of my publications (click on titles) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” “Communication Success with Four Personality Types(link is external),” and “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People(link is external).”

1.    Keep Your Cool

Benefits: Maintain self-control. Avoid escalation of problem.

How: The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure; the less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.

When you feel angry or upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of escalate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

2.    “Fly Like an Eagle”

Benefits: More peace of mind. Reduce risk of friction.

How: Some people in our lives are simply not worth tussling with. Your time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. As the saying goes: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!” Whether you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or an annoying relative, be diplomatic and apply the tips from this article when you need to interact with them. The rest of the time, keep a healthy distance. 

3.    Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive

Benefits: Minimize misinterpretation & misunderstanding. Concentrate energy on problem-solving.

How: When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think that my co-worker is ignoring my messages, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

Another way to reduce personalization is to try to put ourselves in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

“My partner is so emotionally distant. It must not be easy to come from a family where people don’t express affection…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

4.    Pick Your Battles

Benefits: Save time, energy and grief. Avoid unnecessary problems and complications.

How: Not all difficult individuals we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. There are two scenarios under which you might decide not to get involved. The first is when someone has temporary, situational power over you. For example, if you’re on the phone with an unfriendly customer service representative, as soon as you hang up and call another agent, this representative will no longer have power over you.

Another situation where you might want to think twice about confrontation is when, by putting up with the difficult behavior, you derive a certain benefit. An example of this would be an annoying co-worker, for although you dislike her, she’s really good at providing analysis for your team, so she’s worth the patience. It’s helpful to remember that most difficult people have positive qualities as well, especially if you know how to elicit them (see keys #5 and 6).

In both scenarios, you have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

5.    Separate the Person From the Issue

Benefits: Establish yourself as a strong problem solver with excellent people skills. Win more rapport, cooperation and respect.

How: In every communication situation, there are two elements present: The relationship you have with this person, and the issue you are discussing. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue, and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. For example:

“I want to talk about what’s on your mind, but I can’t do it when you’re yelling. Let’s either sit down and talk more quietly, or take a time out and come back this afternoon.”

“I appreciate you putting a lot of time into this project. At the same time, I see that three of the ten requirements are still incomplete. Let’s talk about how to finish the job on schedule.”

“I really want you to come with us. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be late like the last few times, we’ll have to leave without you.”

When we’re soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. When we’re firm on the issue, we show ourselves as strong problem solvers.

6.     Put the Spotlight on Them

Benefits: Proactive. Equalize power in communication. Apply appropriate pressure to reduce difficult behavior.

How: A common pattern with difficult people (especially the aggressive types) is that they like to place attention on you to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. The focus is consistently on “what’s wrong,” instead of “how to solve the problem.”

This type of communication is often intended to dominate and control, rather than to sincerely take care of issues. If you react by being on the defensive, you simply fall into the trap of being scrutinized, thereby giving the aggressor more power while she or he picks on you with impunity. A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the difficult person, and the easiest way to do so is to ask questions. For example:

Aggressor: “Your proposal is not even close to what I need from you.”

Response: “Have you given clear thought to the implications of what you want to do?”

Aggressor: “You’re so stupid.”

Response: “If you treat me with disrespect I’m not going to talk with you anymore. Is that what you want? Let me know and I will decide if I want to stay or go.”

Keep your questions constructive and probing. By putting the difficult person in the spotlight, you can help neutralize her or his undue influence over you.

7.    Use Appropriate Humor

Benefits: Disarm unreasonable and difficult behavior when correctly used. Show your detachment. Avoid being reactive. Problem rolls off your back.

How: Humor is a powerful communication tool. Years ago I knew a co-worker who was quite stuck up. One day a colleague of mine said “Hello, how are you?” to him. When the egotistical co-worker ignored her greeting completely, my colleague didn’t feel offended. Instead, she smiled good-naturedly and quipped: “That good, huh?” This broke the ice and the two of them started a friendly conversation. Brilliant.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth, disarm difficult behavior, and show that you have superior composure. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” I explain the psychology of humor in conflict resolution, and offer a variety of ways one can use humor to reduce or eliminate difficult behavior.

8.    Change from Following to Leading

Benefit: Leverage direction and flow of communication.

How: In general, whenever two people are communicating, one is usually doing more leading, while the other is doing more following. In healthy communication, two people would take turns leading and following. However, some difficult people like to take the lead, set a negative tone, and harp on “what’s wrong” over and over.

You can interrupt this behavior simply by changing the topic. As mentioned earlier, utilize questions to redirect the conversation. You can also say “By the way…” and initiate a new subject. When you do so, you’re taking the lead and setting a more constructive tone.

9.    Confront Bullies (Safely)

Benefits: Reduce or eliminate harmful behavior. Increase confidence and peace of mind.

How: The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. This is true in schoolyards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

On an empathetic note, studies show that many bullies are victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses bullying behavior, but may help you consider the bully in a more equanimous light.

“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” — Tom Hiddleston

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

“I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.” — Shay Mitchell

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counseling, legal, law enforcement, or administrative professionals on the matter. It’s very important to stand up to bullies, and you don’t have to do it alone.

10.     Set Consequence

Benefits: Proactive not reactive. Shift balance of power. Win respect and cooperation when appropriately applied.

How: The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills we can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the challenging individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

In conclusion, to know how to handle unreasonable and difficult people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess. You are on your way to leadership success!

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.
Preston Ni M.S.B.A.
Communication Success

 

Scientific evidence that counting to 10 helps control anger (sometimes)

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

angryIt’s something we’re taught from a young age – when you’re about to go into a rage, force yourself to count to ten and hopefully the storm will pass. This may sound like common sense, but without testing the method scientifically, how do we know if and when it really works? For example, while the counting delay could give you a chance to get a grip of your aggressive urges, it’s equally plausible that it could give you time to grow even angrier about whatever triggered your displeasure in the first place.

For a new study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Jeffrey Osgood and Mark Muraven at the State University of New York have put a version of the count-to-ten method to the test and they’ve found that it really can help reduce aggression, but only in certain circumstances.

They recruited 312 students to take part in what they were told was a test of virtual teamwork. First, the researchers asked half the participants to complete a task designed to reduce their levels of self-control (they had to write a stream-of-consciousness essay while avoiding thinking about a white bear). The other participants completed some maths problems, which does not tax self-control so much.

Next, each participant wrote an essay about their favourite childhood TV show and then they exchanged essays with what they thought was their task partner who was working elsewhere on another computer. In fact, this was a ruse and was simply a chance for the researchers to provoke the participants with some damning essay feedback, ostensibly from their partner. He/she wrote of their essay: “This is one of the dumbest essays that I have ever read. Only an idiot would say something like that, I can’t believe you are even in college.

Suitably provoked, each participant was then given the chance to decide how many minutes their partner had to play an unpleasant card memorisation game in which wrong answers were punishable by a noise-blast – choosing a longer amount of time was taken as a sign of greater anger and increased aggression. In two further twists, some of the participants had been told that their partner would subsequently be making the same decision for them – in other words, he or she would have the chance to retaliate. Also, some of the participants chose their partner’s fate immediately after receiving the rude essay feedback, while others were forced to wait around 30 seconds, thus mimicking the delay effects of counting to ten.

As expected, the participants who’d had their self-control depleted tended to decide their partner’s fate more quickly (when there was no forced delay) and they tended to be more aggressive in their decisions, although this wasn’t statistically significant. Focusing on the participants with reduced self-control, the results showed that when there were consequences (i.e. their partner could retaliate), the forced delay made them less aggressive – that is, they chose for their partner to suffer 3.9 minutes of the unpleasant noise-blast task on average, compared with 6.6 minutes when their reaction was not delayed. Conversely, when their anger would have no immediate consequences for themselves, the forced delay actuallyincreased these participants’ aggression (they chose 8 minutes suffering for their partner, compared with 5.7 minutes without a delay).

In summary, these results suggests that counting to ten could help stop you from lashing out too harshly when there are obvious consequences for your anger, presumably because the delay gives you time to take these consequences into account before choosing how to act. Backing this interpretation, a number memorisation task during the forced delay removed the calming effect of the delay for the depleted participants who knew their partner could retaliate, probably because they now couldn’t use the time to think about the consequences of their choices. Finally, when there are no obvious consequences to an outburst, the results suggest that counting to ten could make you lash out even more, likely because in this kind of situation the delay just gives you more time to stew over whatever provoked you in the first place.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

The Easiest Way to Deal With a Difficult Person

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

When I was little, I had a controversial grandmother. She was the woman my grandfather remarried after my father’s mom’s premature death. We pretty much only saw her twice a year: once for a family reunion, and once for a Christmas party. I adored her (except that she always smelled like cigarettes and had a lot of rules). But my parents and aunt and uncle were very tense around her.

Fights rarely broke out at the parties — I think my grandma was too dignified for that — but I do remember a lot of stress surrounding this difficult person in our lives. She knew how to push people’s buttons.

Do you have someone difficult to deal with this holiday season? Here are three strategies that work well for me.

  1. Make sure the difficult person has a job to do, and then let them do it their own way. Things were always better when my grandma had a job in the kitchen. For a lot of people, conflict is born from an unfulfilled desire to feel useful and to be a part of something larger than themselves. Start by giving the difficult person a way to focus on something besides themselves.Tip: When you ask someone for his or her help, provide a rationale — any rationale — for the favor. One study showed that the word “because” tends to trigger automatic compliance. For instance, you might say brightly, “It would be great if you could peel the carrots, because we need the carrots peeled for dinner.” As bizarrely repetitive as that may sound, it should work better than, “Would you peel the carrots for me?”
  2. Take care of your own needs first. This one is about taking precautions to keep yourself balanced and prevent your fight-or-flight response from kicking in. It’s harder to regulate your emotions when you’re tired, for example, so if you’re at a party with the difficult person and you start to feel spent, consider leaving early, lest you get sucked into a confrontation. You might risk insulting your host, but that’s generally better than ruining the party by making a scene.Similarly, research shows that keeping your blood sugar stable will make you less aggressive if you get angry, so don’t skip a meal if you are headed into a difficult situation. If you need to leave the room and do some deep breathing, do it — even if the difficult person needs you to talk about politics right now. If we can stay calm, we are more likely to engage the brain circuits that make us better problem-solvers in challenging situations. (Also, we have more fun.)Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson’s advice can help us take this even further:

    Also see how taking care of yourself has good ripple effects for others. Deliberately do a small thing that feeds you — a little rest, some exercise, some time for yourself — and then notice how this affects your relationships. Notice how healthy boundaries in relationships helps prevent you from getting used up or angry and eventually needing to withdraw.

    The exception: When our “need” is to be right. Often we feel a strong desire to show the difficult person the error in his or her ways. But this won’t make the situation easier, and it won’t make us feel better in the long run. Find a different (and more positive) way to feel powerful; for example, turn your attention to helping someone in need, perhaps even the difficult person him — or herself.

  3. Give up on trying to fix him or her. This means accepting the difficult person for who he or she is, including the discomfort (or even pain) that they are creating.Practicing this sort of acceptance is about dropping the fantasy of how we think things ought to be. You might have a fantasy of a sweet, close relationship with your daughter-in-law, for example, and so you feel angry and disappointed every time she does something that doesn’t live up to this fantasy.But be aware that she likely feels your disappointment, and feels judged. She knows you are trying to change or “fix” her, and that doesn’t feel good — it hurts her, in fact, and hurting someone, however unintentionally, does not make her easier to deal with.

An alternate approach is one of empathy. Rather than judging what the person does or says, just try to listen and understand where he or she is coming from. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with the person, just that you’re showing him or her a basic level of respect as a human being. Research suggests that engaging with a person this way — acknowledging his or her point of view without judging it — can make him or her feel more understood… and, as a result, less defensive or difficult.

Here’s how to practice acceptance and empathy: Take a deep breath.Look at the difficult person with kindness and compassion, and say to yourself, I see you, and I see that you are suffering. I accept that you are anxious and scared, even if I don’t understand why. I accept that you are making all of us anxious, too. I accept that your trouble has become my trouble for the time being. When we acknowledge and accept difficulty as something that just is, we let go of the resistance that creates stress and tension. There is a lot of truth to the adage that “What we resists, persists.”

When this person is speaking, try not to interrupt with counter-arguments or even with attempts to try to get him or her to see things from a different, perhaps more positive point of view. Instead, try to paraphrase back to the person the points you think he or she is making, and acknowledge the emotions he or she seems to be expressing. For instance, if he seems ticked off about something, you might say, “It sounds like that really makes you angry.” In this way, you let them know that their experience matters.

We are all just looking for love and approval. This holiday season, the greatest gift we can give a difficult person — and ourselves — is to accept them fully, with love.

Article By, Christine Carter, PhD
Sociologist, productivity and happiness expert, author of The
Sweet Spot and Raising Happiness

How Successful People Handle Toxic People

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They Don’t Die in the Fight

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They Don’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

They Get Some Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present.

A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. 

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people.Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

I always love to hear new strategies for dealing with toxic people, so please feel free to share yours in the comments section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence testsemotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

If you’d like more strategies for dealing with difficult people and managing your emotions in times of stress, consider taking the Emotional Intelligence Appraisaltest that’s included with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book. Your test results will pinpoint which of the book’s 66 emotional intelligence strategies will increase your EQ the most.

 

Defusing Hostile People – Part 2/2

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Principles of Defusing Hostility

Follow these principles when dealing with an angry person to succeed! (see BOTH parts)

If You Lose Control, You Lose, Period!

Manipulative nasty behaviour is designed to affect you emotionally so that you will become aggressive or defensive. When we lose our cool and defend ourselves or become aggressive we actually end up doing what the other nasty person wants us to do…and we lose because we enter into an ugly game where nobody can win. Self-control is critical, and that has a particular meaning. It means that we control our behaviour. You are entitled to be angry or upset if you choose but you can learn to control your behaviour and the way you express that anger or upset so something good comes from it. Here are some tips:

• When dealing with someone who is attempting to provoke a confrontation, make a conscious attempt to slow down your responses. Do NOT reply immediately since your first gut level response is likely to be an angry or defensive response. Before you respond, ask yourself the questions: “How can I deal with this situation so I create LESS anger and upset on both sides?”. Then respond.

• Pay special attention to the speed and loudness of your speech. When people get excited they tend to talk more quickly and loudly and that causes the other person to escalate also…as the conversation increases in speed there is less and less thought and more chance that people will say things that are destructive. Take your time.

• If you are really triggered, (“pi*sed off”) at what is being said to you, it is a good idea to take a time-out. A time-out is not avoidance–it differs in terms of what one says. For example, if you say: “I’m not talking about this with you” that is an avoidance response and a brush-off and likely to make the situation worse. If you say: “It isn’t a good time for me to talk about this, but I would like to discuss it with you tomorrow. Can we set up a time to meet?, that’s different because it is expressing a commitment to work with the person and does so without characterizing the conversation as negative.

What You Focus On You Get More Of

There is a general principle in life that the things you focus on you get more of. Practically speaking, that means that when someone used confrontation-provoking behaviour you have a choice as to whether you talk about the “junk” or “bait” or whether you talk about something constructive. If you focus on side-issues, personal attacks, negativity, past-centred comments, etc., THAT is what the conversation will be about. If you turn the conversation to something constructive, and do not focus on the confrontation-focusing comments, you don’t allow the attacking person a forum to continue the attacks. (see also Avoid Taking The Bait)

Avoid High Risk, High Gain Behaviour

Some reactions to nasty attacking behaviour have some chance of succeeding, but are called high risk, high gain behaviour. That is, when they work, they work well, but when they fail, they increase the level of emotion, aggression and even violence. Two examples: a verbal blunt smack upside the head, and humour. Both will work sometimes (probably rarely), and when they work they can be very effective in turning a destructive conversation around. The problem is when they don’t work, they increase the escalation of the conflict situation.

We tend to remember the few times when high risk, high gain actions succeed, and make the mistake of assuming that they will work again. This is usually not the case. In conflict situations it is a better bet to stay away from those kinds of actions because more often than not they backfire.

Don’t Take The Bait

We’ve left this principle to last because it is probably the most important. It ties in with several other principles we have talked about.

The term verbal bait refers to the many confrontation provoking behaviours that have a single purpose; to control and manipulate you into responding in emotional ways. When you take the bait, the “fisherperson” basically reels you in, since you have given up control of the conversation. Worse, you have given up control of the conversation to someone who probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Let the bait go by. In most cases the bait has little or nothing to do with whatever is being discussed but is a conversational control ploy. As such it is best ignored. One tactic is to acknowledge the other person’s feelings, then refocus or move on to the issue you need to deal with. For example:

Vlad The Impaler: I don’t think you are competent to even have an opinion on whether we should change our filing system. Let’s face it you are one of the most unorganized people here…

Fred: “Vlad, I know you are frustrated about this. But let’s move back to the merits of the two systems we are discussing. We have the flingengaus system and the tragingf system, and need to look at the pluses and minuses…

In this example Fred has slipped the personal attacks (basically ignored them) and refocuses back to the file systems.

Some Other Comments

The process of dealing with abusive, aggressive people in the workplace can range from the simple to the very complex. We have outlined a few basic principles but there are a number of verbal techniques that can be used to defuse angry situations, prevent escalation and turn destructive conversations around. For those interested in additional resources we suggest books by Suzette Haden Elgin (Verbal Self-Defense series) or George Thompson (Verbal Judo).

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include If It Wasn’t For The Customers I’d Really Like This Job: Stop Angry, Hostile Customers COLD While Remaining Professional, Stress Free, Efficient and Cool As A Cucumber, and Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator’s/Teacher’s Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents

The Work911 Supersite contains many more free articles and tips on a number of workplace topics. Access it at work911.com . Robert can be contacted via e-mail at ceo@work911.com.

This excerpt is from Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook For The Public Sector.

Defusing Hostile People – Part 1/2

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Principles of Defusing Hostility

Follow these principles when dealing with an angry person to succeed! (see BOTH parts)

Deal With Person’s Feelings First

An angry person needs to have the issue AND their feelings addressed in order to start interacting constructively. The angrier the person, the more important it is to acknowledge their anger through the use of empathy statements and listening responses FIRST, before moving on to the issue. Problem solving with angry people often results in wasted time unless they are ready to participate calmly.

Begin To Defuse Early

Angry and frustrated people usually indicate their mood prior to opening their mouths and beginning a hostile attack. One way to address or pre-empt the attack is to begin the defusing process before the other person gets on an abusive rant. For example, in the dialogue with Mary and Peter, Mary might have noticed Peter standing in her doorway looking rather irate and angry, and spoken first using an empathy type response like: “Hi, Peter, you look like you are really upset with something. What’s up?” Something as simple as that might have made a huge difference in setting a more respectful tone for the interaction.

Be Assertive, Not Manipulative, Passive or Aggressive

You have a right to take action, or impose consequences in situations where someone has stepped over the line in their comments or behaviours. In fact, if you don’t speak up for yourself in these situations bully-type people will perceive you as an acceptable victim for their poor behaviour. When using assertive type statements or setting up consequences, do not dwell on the way the person is communicating any more than necessary. Make your statement, then refocus the conversation back to the issue. With respect to Mary and Peter this is one way Mary might have responded.

Peter, I will help you sort this out so you have what you need. In order to help you I need you to slow down, and answer a few questions so we can get this done.

Notice that the above is firm, clear and assertive. If Peter persists in being nasty or personal Mary is within her rights to say:

Peter, if you can answer my questions so we can get you those letters, I can help you. If you continue to raise your voice I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Which would you prefer?

The Critical Message: “It Isn’t Going To Work With Me

Aggressive, abusive and manipulative people look for victims they can control, using a variety of confrontation-provoking behaviour. When dealing with such people the important message to send is “What you are doing isn’t going to work with me..I will not be bullied, suckered into stupid arguments, insulted or give you the satisfaction of reacting to the abuse”. In short, it isn’t going to work with me. Once aggressive people realize that they aren’t going to be able to control you (make you angry or upset), they are more likely to aim their nasty behaviour at someone who is a better victim.

Many conflicts occur because one or both parties uses certain words or phrases that are “hot”. Usually conflict that happens this way is destructive to relationships. It’s easy to learn the kinds of words that start fights, and replace them with better phrasing. Here’s a summary of these “fightin words” you can avoid.

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include If It Wasn’t For The Customers I’d Really Like This Job: Stop Angry, Hostile Customers COLD While Remaining Professional, Stress Free, Efficient and Cool As A Cucumber, and Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator’s/Teacher’s Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents

The Work911 Supersite contains many more free articles and tips on a number of workplace topics. Access it at work911.com . Robert can be contacted via e-mail at ceo@work911.com.

This excerpt is from Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook For The Public Sector.

 

How to Handle a Difficult Ex-Coworker Who’s Threatening You

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

According to the Attitudes in America Workplace VII study, 15 percent of workers said that a coworker had made them so mad they felt like slapping them. If you’re experiencing threats of abuse or retaliation and are unable or unwilling to quit your job, use these tips to defuse the situation.

Understand the Angry Coworker Dynamic

An estimated 53.5 million Americans are bullied at work, reports the Workplace Bullying Institute. An angry coworker might feel entitled to yell at you in the office, either alone or in front of other people. Unfortunately, many bullied employees get little support from their boss or HR department, as most of the bullies’ actions are legal.

Making complaints may lead the workplace bully to retaliate or to employee privileges being taken away. If the workplace bully quits or gets fired, he may blame and try to retaliate against you. At this point, HR can refuse to take any action because the bully no longer works for the company.

Protect Yourself From Retaliation

If an ex-coworker makes physical threats against you, protect yourself. Park right by the door and ask a coworker to walk you out at night, so you aren’t left alone in the parking lot.

If you’re concerned about a coworker slandering you, read up on your legal rights. If that former coworker tells you off in the parking lot, you don’t have legal recourse. Yet if he tells you off in a client meeting, an email to the whole staff or online, and you can prove his actions damaged your ability to make a living, you can sue. Save any evidence of threatening communication or personal attacks, either by printing them off or taking a screen shot of an online attack.

Ask an attorney to write a cease and desist letter that acknowledges the potential for legal recourse and warns him to knock it off. This may get the ex-coworker to stop. In extreme cases, an order of protection may be necessary.

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Your social standing is vital to your reputation, and an ex-coworker who attacks your social profile can damage your credibility. A former coworker might upload questionable or compromising pictures of you, make disparaging statements or email your clients and lie about your performance.

Don’t give your coworker any fuel for the fire. Tweak your social settings to maximize privacy and remove your ex-coworker from your connections. Consider using areputation monitoring service to monitor what people say about you online and correct any lies. This gives you the upper hand when it comes to false information spread online.

Be honest with clients and colleagues about the situation. Simply say that so-and-so was very angry to be let go, blames you for it and has made disparaging remarks about you, and that you want them to know in case he comes to them. If you remain calm and stick to the facts, you’ll come off as mature and reasonable.

Drama at the desk – how to professionally deal with employees

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Unhappy young couple having an argument

The chronically late, the anger management candidate, the person who questions your every decision — these employees could possess all the skills in the world and still would make life difficult for you. According to Microsoft, U.S. businesses lose about $600 billion each year from unproductive employees. The fact is, if your other employees are doing their work on NetSuite or whatever their software of choice, and the problem employee constantly disrupts their day, your bottom line is going to suffer. Rather than losing your temper and feeding into their emotional struggles, treat these employees in a professional manner while getting them to change their destructive behavior.

Document Details

If all you can offer is vague statements about how the employee is behaving, he has the ability to argue it all day long. Denial and belittling the behavior are his defenses of choice. Avoid this before it even starts by keeping a detailed record of his behavior. On September 12, you were 17 minutes late, clocking in at 8:17. On September 16, you were 22 minutes late, clocking in at 8:52. When faced with such detailed evidence, he’ll have no way to argue around the facts, and will have to face his behavior.

Have a System in Place

Unruly employees love to make excuses for their behavior, and one of their favorites is often that they aren’t being treated fairly. Eliminate the possibility of this happening by setting up a detailed plan for dealing with company infractions and set it down in writing. Give it to every employee on the first day on the job, so they will have been informed ahead of time. Follow the procedures exactly when disciplining this employee.

Avoid the Drama

No one likes to be criticized, especially when they know they’re in the wrong. Difficult employees can argue for hours about their behavior and the excuses behind it, escalating the emotion into anger or tears. Do not fall into this pit, or you’ll have a hard time digging yourself out. Keep all your discussions calm and unemotional. State the facts, and keep all mention of feelings out of the room. It doesn’t matter if his behavior makes Tania frustrated or Jamal angry — what matters is that it’s inappropriate and needs to stop.

Have a Plan

Before you even invite the employee into your office, have a plan in place for correcting his behavior and turning him into a better team member. Document every scenario, and give him alternate ways to cope or react with problems. Give him clear and achievable goals, and set them into a timetable. Make it very clear to him you will be monitoring his behavior, and describe exactly what the consequences will be if he doesn’t follow the plan.

Follow Up

No one will think you’re serious about change if you don’t follow through on your own rules and decisions. Sure, it takes extra time that could be better spent elsewhere, but set those follow-up dates in your calendar right away, and document the behavior you see. Have a short meeting with the employee to discuss his progress or lack thereof, and remind him of the perks or consequences of continuing on in his current manner.

Do you work with difficult people?

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Dealing with Difficult People



Here’s what our “Dealing With Difficult People” webinar will cover: 

* 5 strategies for improving communication with difficult people – so you can end your frustration! 
* How to diffuse people who are angry, upset or just plain rude, and how to calm tense situations. 
* How these strategies will improve your reputation as a professional and reduce your stress. 
* What motivates theattitudes and behaviors of difficult people (knowledge is power for future interactions!). 
* Techniques for giving feedback to difficult people to help correct or even improve their behavior (make it easy for you). 
* How to face life confidently, knowing you’re up to any challenge (stop getting kicked around and increase your self-esteem). 

To Register
: EmailDavid@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 
Date: Thursday July 11 2013 
Time: 2:00pm ET
 (New York/Toronto time zone) 
Cost: Only $99! per dial in line (unlimited attendance)


Your Registration Includes: 

  • Toll Free access
  • Invitation (and link) to my private virtual meeting room (you attend in front of your computer)
  • Executive overview (workbook) sent prior to your session
  • Post event handout (filled with extra information)
  • Q&A during session
  • Recording of your entire session to listen to or share with others after the session (or even if you were unable to attend the live session, you can still get all the information)
  • 30 days of free email coaching and support

Attention Managers: Do you want an educational session for a Lunch-and-Learn for your team? Register for the session and present it live (or at your convenience) in your training room. You can send the download link to those employees who aren’t able to attend to ensure that everyone gets this great information (all for just $99!) 

Save time and money and register today!

Dealing With Difficult People.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? 

When you do it right, Dealing With Difficult People drastically improves your life as you improve your working relationships with people who challenge you to the limits of your patience (yes, even the ones who make you tear your hair out – literally!). 

What will our Dealing With Difficult People webinar do for you? 

It will: 
* Give you back control. 
* Give you the tools you need. You’ll have an easy-to-follow strategy you can use in any situation – designed to be realistic solutions to real problems you face in the workplace and at home. 
* Give you immediate actions to take. 

So how do you do it? 

I know it’s not easy. If Dealing With Difficult People were easy, everyone would get along, all the time. No one would be manipulative, and no one would feel bullied or belittled. But as you know, tense situations arise constantly. 

You may think you’ve tried before to figure out how best to Deal With Difficult People. Maybe you read some books. Maybe you tried talking to your Difficult Person under different circumstances. Maybe you even invited him to coffee to talk it out. 

Maybe you have tried – but have you tried Dealing With Difficult People MY way? 

There are some very specific, very crucial components to Dealing With Difficult People effectively – and you may be overlooking some of them either because you don’t know about them or because you don’t realize their importance. 

It’s not your fault you haven’t had success in the past, or that the situation at work has spiraled out of control. Very few people teach what I teach, which is a proven, working strategy you can apply immediately in any relationship or situation to handle the difficult people in your work life. 

Share:
Do you work with 
Difficult People? 
Next Webinar July 11th
Hi Rhonda 

Is this really how you imagined your job would be? 

When you made the decision to enter into your specific field, at the level you’ve chosen, – you probably envisioned playing a certain role in keeping an office, a department or even an entire company running smoothly. 

Whether you imagined scheduling appointments, greeting visitors, planning and executing marketing plans or hitting the streets raising money for your company’s charity, you probably envisioned an office in which everyone worked together – each person playing his or her essential part in working toward a common goal – in harmony. 

But then, you realized that as a member of an office staff comprising a variety of personalities, you deal with difficult people – daily. And you realized that these interactions can turn a dream job into a nightmare. 

Does any of this sound familiar? 
* You feel like you’re constantly falling victim to customers who shout at you for doing your job, team members who take credit for your ideas, or a boss who blames you if he misses an appointment (even though you entered it into his calendar a month ago). What if you could learn to maintain control of each confrontation so that you didn’t get railroaded? 
* When confrontations or difficult situations arise, you freeze. You may think of the proper response hours later, but in the moment, you’re rendered unable to think, move or . What if you could learn real, working strategies for saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, every time? 
* You definitely don’t want to quit your job, but that one difficult person you work with is really affecting you – and you’re not sure how much longer you can take it. What if you could STOP feeling trapped and scared, and START feeling empowered to act in precisely the right way to stand up for yourself and end the bullying. 
* You know you should respond differently in difficult situations, but you are afraid of the consequences if you actually speak your mind. What if you could learn to effectively diffuse tense situations, without losing your cool?? 

I have some good news: you are in the right place. 

I’m Rhonda Scharf, CSP, North America’s Workplace Efficiency Expert. I’m a highly experienced professional speaker with Certified Speaking Professional designation, who has spoken in 10 different countries to literally tens of thousands of people. I was the 2004 National President of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, and I sat on the board of the International Federation of Professional Speakers. I’ve consulted with some of the world’s most recognized companies including Sony, Mercedes-Benz, the US Coast Guard, Exxon Mobil, Bank of Canada, all levels of government in Canada and the US. Plus, a CSP is the highest speaking designation in the world. 

Equally important, I have three young adult kids, am divorced and remarried, and live in a blended family, and have divorced parents. What does this mean? I experience all the same dysfunctional relationships that you do! 

I’m not telling you all this to make myself sound good; rather, I want you to know that I’ve been there and done that. I am a real person, with real problems, who has generally figured life out – I’m like a friend who wants you to succeed – to create a working environment that nurtures effective communication so everyone is on the same page – a page that leads to an efficient workplace. 

So what’s my secret? 

That’s why I’m inviting you to join me as I reveal my system for taking back control of draining relationships at work – relationships that turn your dream job into a nightmare and put a rough cog in your otherwise well-oiled machine. 
“Dealing With Difficult People” 

You are about to discover a system it has taken me years to develop – and you’re about to gain all the information you need to create the work environment you REALLY want, so that you can get back to orchestrating that seamless office symphony! 

Whether you’ve read other books and bought other materials, without success, or are trying this for the first time, you’ll discover strategies and techniques you can use in any relationship, whether it’s at work or at home. 

PLUS, if you’re an IAAP member, the content of this webinar qualifies for recertification points. If you are an AAA member is pre-certified for one point (be sure to ask David for your certificate when the webinar is over for your files). You don’t have to be a member of either organization to attend. 

Wondering how we’re going to get all this done? 

Here’s how: 
* “Dealing With Difficult People” is a live, 1-hour webinar you’ll call into, while following along on an online presentation. 
* Before the session, I’ll send you an Executive Overview, which is the workbook you’ll use to follow along. 
* During the session, I’ll host a live Q&A call, in which you can remain anonymous. 
* After the session, I’ll send you the link to download a recording, which will be available for you to share with anyone you like for 60 days. 
* For 30 days following the session, you’ll get unlimited email coaching with me. 

Below, I’ve included a couple of my most frequently asked questions, and their answers:
Q: I’m not sure I have the time to spend an hour on the phone in the middle of the day. How can I make time for this? 
A: You’ll spend just one hour during your workday listening in on this seminar – and you’ll reap the rewards – timewise – forever! Once you learn the strategies and techniques in this course, you will save hours of time that you previously would have spent diffusing situations inefficiently. Whereas you previously may have gotten into a long argument with a rude customer or team member, you now will be properly equipped to quickly and efficiently end the situation so you can get back to work – time saved! Consider this one hour a time investment that will pay off long-term – exponentially. 
Q: I’m afraid to tell my boss – my “Difficult Person” – that I need this course. How can I approach this with her? 
A: Present this course to your boss as a way to improve your efficiency in the workplace – as a way to meet more of her needs, more efficiently. Explain that you’d like some tools for communicating and working more effectively with customers and team members. Essentially, this tool works for you and for your boss. 

So, now are you ready to sign up? EmailDavid@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 

Isn’t it time you learned what to say and how to say it, while maintaining your composure and your reputation when faced with challenging individuals (and let’s face it, front line staff members face them all the time!)? 

Learn NOW how to deal with conflict, problems and manipulation, rather than spending your life as a victim. You can take control – and you can have your dream job back! 

Here’s to your dream job, 

Email David@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 

Contact Info: 
1-877-213-8608 
Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com


Rhonda ScharfThanks, 

Rhonda 

Rhonda Scharf, CSP 
Certified Speaking Professional, Trainer & Author 

ON THE RIGHT TRACK – Training & Consulting Inc. 
(613) 244-9444 
Toll Free: 1 877 213- 8608 
Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com

 

 

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Confrontation Skills

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Attend our next live Confrontation Skills webinar on Tuesday April 9, 2013 at 2pm ET. Only $99 to register!

Women “work harder” after being bullied

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Here is an excellent article to ponder about how women respond to workplace bullying!

http://www.hrmonline.ca/article/women-work-harder-after-being-bullied-173598.aspx

What are your thoughts on this issue?

It will get worse – hang in there!

Monday, December 17th, 2012

When you are dealing with your difficult person, you can expect that they will get worse before they get better.  This is a good sign.

We are all familiar with the old saying “If you keep on doing what you always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”  We know that with our difficult person, we have to do something different.  We know that we want to “push” them out of their normal/regular response to do something different (and hopefully less difficult).

You can expect that as you practice different responses, or different strategies, that you will confuse your difficult person.  That confusion (or lack of a payoff on their part) will require them to do something different.

Expect that what they do will be to increase their “difficultness” (I realize that isn’t a real word).  This means that what you are doing is actually working, don’t give in, keep on-the-right-track.

Are you being difficult too?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

In my Dealing with Difficult People workshops, I try to get everyone to realize that they are usually being difficult to someone else. Most people who attend my workshops are looking for skills to learn to deal with their difficult person, their bully, or handle a confrontation.

I need to make them realize they are part of the problem, and in order to find the solution, we need to change that. Most participants are surprised to find out that what they are doing is contributing to the difficult person’s continued behavior. They don’t see themselves as part of the problem; they see themselves as trying to fix the problem.

Imagine the following activity:

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

–       Everyone is put together in pairs. One person is person “A” and the other is “B”

–       They stand facing each other, about three feet apart

–       Each partner puts their hands up (chest level), towards (and touching) their partner, palms facing out, as if they are going to play the child hood game “Patty-Cake”

–       When I say Go, partner A is instructed to push as hard as they can on partner B’s hands

–       1-2-3 Go! I let this happen for about 5 seconds before I say stop

It seems that the response is almost always the same. Partner A follows the instructions, pushes on B, but B pushes back (although they were not told to do that).

Why?

It is an instinctive reaction. When one person pushes (either literally or figuratively), the other pushes back. When B pushes back on A, it stops A from being able to follow the instructions and instinctively A pushes even harder. Before you know it, partner A&B are having a bit of a pushing match.

In this situation, partner A considers that partner B is being difficult because they are pushing back (that wasn’t part of the instructions, and it stops them from doing what they are trying to do). Partner B considers that partner A is being difficult because they assume that A is trying to knock them over (although that wasn’t part of the instructions either).

This little exercise illustrates exactly what happens in other situations. Each person considers the other to be difficult.

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

So you are part of the problem right? Have you considered perhaps not pushing back and seeing what happens?

A relaxing Saturday on the links with Uncle Ron

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an angry tirade that made you feel threatened? That’s exactly what happened to me Saturday on the golf course.

Rhonda, Mom & Uncle Ron

I was on a mini-vacation with my mom, golfing on a beautiful Saturday with my Uncle Ron and my cousin, Debbie. My uncle is an average golfer. Some days he plays very well, and other days he isn’t so lucky.

Saturday was one of the best days he has ever had on the golf course; he was hitting the ball for miles. He had a big grin on his face to show his pleasure with his success, too. It was a great day.

Until the 4th hole.

Uncle Ron stepped up to the tee and shot a drive that looked like Bubba Watson had gotten hold of it. Probably the best drive of his life. Perfectly straight, almost on the green (it was a par four).

And, about 50 yards past the group of golfers in front of us.

If you are a golfer, you will recognize immediately what a major gaffe this was. You should never hit up to the golfers in front you, let alone past them. Someone could get seriously hurt with a flying golf ball.

Uncle Ron was 100 per cent at fault and immediately felt terrible for this amazing shot. Terrible for what could have happened. Fortunately he didn’t hit anyone (the shot was well over their heads, fortunately).

One of the people in the group in front of us was very upset by this (and rightfully so). He hopped in his golf cart, and came racing back to us.

When he got to us, before he said anything my Uncle Ron started to apologize. He took full responsibility and was very good about his apology.

But it wasn’t good enough for Mr. Golfer. He screamed and yelled. Uncle Ron said, “I apologize,” about four more times. And then stopped talking; clearly nothing he said was getting through to Mr. Golfer.

Then, Mr. Golfer threatened all of us. He said, “make sure you don’t play

golf here again,” and we understood his meaning to be “or something bad will happen to you.” It was a serious physical threat. I gave my uncle credit, though. Although he clarified, “Are you threatening me?” he didn’t take the bait, and didn’t get into it with Mr. Golfer. Clearly he knew that this would be a recipe for danger.

When we stopped responding, and Mr. Golfer finished screaming, he got in his cart and started to drive away. On his final look at my cousin Debbie, he wagged his finger and told her, “not to be smiling about this!”  In fact, she had a look of “holy cow!” on her face that was not a smile.

What would you have done in this situation?

I am guessing it was very difficult for my uncle not to defend himself, or us, as we were being threatened. It would have been very difficult not to yell back, “I’ve said I’m sorry four times – what else do you want me to do?” I’m sure it was very difficult for him not to take the bait.

But it was the right thing to do. Being threatened is way, way out of line. But the only way to make this guy go away was to stop talking. What would have been accomplished by arguing with him? Potential danger for sure.

Sometimes the right answer is to not respond at all. And many times that is the most difficult thing to do.

What are you afraid of?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Emotions are not your friend when they rule your interactions with your difficult person.  You need to be black and white, focused on the facts, calm, cool and collected. You will have no problem dealing with issues that you are not emotional about (because you don’t care), but as soon as you “care” you will have a problem dealing with the situation.

It is in your best interest to NOT respond nor react when you are being ruled by your emotions.

Take time out.  Be sure to arrange a follow up with your difficult person when you can get some perspective, when you can be calm, focused and professional.

You are emotional for a reason.  Are you being ruled by fear? What are you afraid of? If so, figure out what is at the root of that fear, and see what you can do to work around it (are you afraid you’ll lose your job, the boss won’t like you, that you’ll look stupid?). Your fear will probably not be rational. But once you can identify the fear, then you can deal with it.

Your emotions will be easier to handle when there is understanding.

So, what are you afraid of?

Manage Your Stress

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Dealing with a difficult person, having an unexpected confrontation or working every day with a bully is going to take it’s toll on you physically.  Your stress levels will soar, and it is important to manage your stress so you can manage your situation.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

76% of people being bullied suffer from severe anxiety
71% have their sleep disrupted
71% suffer from lack of concentration
47% suffer from post traumatic stress disorder
39% suffer from clinical depression
32% have panic attacks

Even if it isn’t a bully that you are dealing with, you can see how seriously these types of situations affect your stress.  When your stress is high, your ability to deal with the regular demands of life is compromised.  The simple things often become too much to handle.

Make 2011 the year to get on-the-right-track when dealing with your difficult person/confrontation or bully.  Take care of yourself first before you worry about dealing with the other person.

Surf the internet for stress articles, check out my office advice blog: http://on-the-right-track.com/office-advice-blog/ for ongoing articles, and search this blog for previous postings as well.

Expect to be stressed.  Anticipate it so that you can deal with it as well.

We are having a Stress Strategies & Solutions webinar at 2pm on February 1st.  To sign up for it, email Krysia@on-the-right-track.com and use the code DWDP2011 for a $10 reduction (only $89).

Should You Walk Away?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Last week Bill O’Reilly paid a visit to the set of The View.  In case you haven’t seen the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25uyFwWPOZg.

Bill had a heated discussion with the ladies and said several very inflammatory comments.  Now lets be clear here, Bill O’Reilly enjoys pushing buttons and was probably well aware that his comments were inappropriate, but any publicity is good publicity for a guy like Bill right?

The View

The View

Both Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set.  They were unable to have an adult, logical discussion with Bill and were very upset by his comments.
Once they left Barbara Walters announced that we should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and walking away.

I completely disagree.

When you are dealing with a difficult person (as Bill O’Reillly was for Whoopie and Joy), and they are not willing to have an adult, logical discussion; why should you stay and keep trying?  Will anything be accomplished?

The ladies were emotional, upset and an adult, fair, logical discussion was not going to happen.  Walking away was smart on their part.

It would have been easy to say something that they would regret.  It would have been easy to call him an unprofessional name.  It would have been easy for them to destroy their own credibility.

It was smart to walk away in this situation.

I agree with Barbara that we “should” be able to have discussions without walking away in theory.  In reality, sometimes walking away is the smartest thing you can do.

Know when to have a discussion, and know when to walk away.

Dealing with Difficult People Fan Page

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Hi,

I just thought I’d send you a quick note to let you know that I’ve just set up a Facebook Fan Page.

And obviously I think you should join.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself why should I join a “Fan Page,” when I’m already buried in Farmville requests?

Well quite simply, Fan Page is not my term. If I had to choose a better one, it would be “Get Useful Information Via Facebook Page.”

Well maybe not that exact phrase – but you get the point.

So here are the benefits to you:

All my informational outlets (blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and newsletters) are automatically routed to Facebook. So whenever something changes or gets updated, you’ll see that change or update in your news feed when you next log in. You’ll also be able to share it with others or comment directly.

It’s really about bringing everything together in a place where most people already have an account, so that you can get valuable insights and information when it is most convenient to you.

So take a second and “Like” me at this link:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dealing-With-Difficult-People/166627780016958

What NOT to say during Confrontation!

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Don’t say it!

I was volunteering at water station a marathon recently.  The station was held on a residential street, so the street was closed off, all traffic diverted and the residents were asked to have their cars off the street no later than 8am.

Don't Swear!

Don't Swear!

At 8:15am a man walked out his front door.  One of other volunteers asked him if the vehicle still on the street was his and could he please remove it.

Clearly this guy was not a morning guy, nor was he in support of the marathon.  He was rude, abusive and stubborn and was not going to be moving his vehicle.

As he went back into the house, one of the volunteers shouted at him “A—hole!”

So wrong!

Regardless of the situation, regardless of who is right or wrong; do not resort to name-calling or profanity.

This is guaranteed to put the situation or relationship at a new level of tension.

I’m pretty sure that several of the volunteers that morning were thinking that exact thought, but that doesn’t make it OK to voice the thought.

Name-calling is never the right answer.  Bite your tongue.  Every time.

Our next webinar is on October 12th on Confrontation Skills

Click here for more information.

Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

60 day recording to listen and share with others

To Register:  Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you the dial in information and password along with an invoice.

Silence can be golden

Friday, September 17th, 2010

When someone pushes your buttons, the best thing you can do is let their verbal attack hang in the air.  Say  nothing.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.  You’ll continue the conversation later, when you are calmer and so are they.  Take a look at the confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you.  You’re an idiot.  I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re constantly messing up and I don’t want your advice!

Mike: (holds extended, silent eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

The attack seems to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.  Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Take the high road in situations such as this one. It will save you from saying something you’ll regret.

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People is Thursday, September 23rd at 2:00pm EDT.

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Only $99 per dial in line – and comes complete with 30 days of free coaching!

Emotions & Anger – Bad Combination!

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Anger and emotional situations are not a good combination.

When your emotions are high, your ability to think straight, your ability to follow a plan of action is in danger.

Recently I was in a personal situation where emotions were high. A difficult person in my life was sitting at the table, and she was unable to keep her emotions in check.  She lashed out in anger at me.  It was hurtful, uncalled for and surprised me.  It also instantly made me angry.

I wanted to deal with the situation right then and there. I wanted to be calm, I wanted to be able to say the right thing, and I wanted to hurt her back.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do all those things and feel good about it.

I said nothing in response.  I knew enough to keep quiet.  I knew that even if I did figure out the perfect thing to say, that Elizabeth wouldn’t have heard it, it wouldn’t have changed anything, and I might have completely regretted saying what I said.

When emotions are high, take 24 hours to respond.  Take the high road, which is incidentally not very busy.  In those 24 hours it gives you both a chance to cool down, to follow your strategy and to make sure that when you do respond you can feel good about what you do say.  If there are going to be regrets about what was said, it won’t be you.

Just because your difficult person isn’t playing by the rules doesn’t mean we need to stoop to that level too.

You know what they say about fighting pigs? Don’t do it – you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

Can you keep your mouth shut?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
Christopher

Christopher

Some times the best thing to do is just keep your mouth shut, not to fight back and to take the high road.

Christopher is my 18-year-old son, and he has been working his past four summers at a local golf course. He knows what he is doing, has been doing it well (and training others), and the management at the golf course values Christopher.

Two weeks ago, Sam, an “older” gentleman was hired as a favour to the owner.  When I say older, I mean he is in his 60s.  To Christopher, this is the age of his grandfather and certainly someone worth respecting.

Chris was assigned the task of training Sam.  Unfortunately, Sam immediately tried to make changes; tell Chris that he was doing his job wrong, and basically cause quite a bit of tension in what should be a relaxing work environment.  Sam was very verbal, very negative and not at all respectful to his coworkers.  He felt that as the older person in the workplace, he knew better than the young kids he was working with.

Christopher has been keeping his mouth shut (which is hard for my 18-year-old outspoken son) while Sam has been complaining about Chris to everyone.  I’ve been coaching him to not say anything he will regret, and to take the high road.

Yesterday it all paid off for him.  Sam was blasting Chris in a public area (in front of other staff and customers) just when the wife of the owner walked in.  Needless to say, things are different at work today.

I would have been easy for Chris to give as good as Sam did. It certainly would have felt better.  It might have taken years instead of weeks for Sam’s true colours to show (if at all).  It may have caused Christopher a lot of stress in the interim.

It was still the right thing to do.  Chris can think of what he would have liked to say, but he doesn’t have to regret what he did say.  The other staff could see what Sam was doing, and Chris didn’t need to fight back in front of them.  He looks far more professional than the man three times his age.

Sam will be taken care of.  Christopher has no worries on his job.

Take the high road – do the right thing (even if it is difficult).  Plan your strategy, follow your plan, and be proud of your actions when dealing with your

difficult person.

If you need help with your ability to handle confrontations, then perhaps you should check out our upcoming webinar on Confrontation Skills.

Register with Caroline@on-the-right-track.com today!

Are you breathing?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Many times we respond (or react) far too quickly when it comes to our Difficult Person.  The tension is high, it has become personal, and even though we often know better, we are quick to respond to a situation.

The next time you are dealing with difficult people, remind yourself to breathe!  Before you say anything, before you do anything, before you continue, take a deep cleansing breath.

It might not completely protect you from responding the wrong way, but it will buy you those precious few seconds where you can remember to bite your tongue, or follow your strategic action plan (and just might save you from saying something you will regret).

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People will be on Tuesday June 15 2010 at 2pm EDT.  For only $99 (per dial in line) you can get an entire hour filled with strategy, tips, solutions and 30 days of free coaching to help keep you on-the-right-track!

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line, or complete the registration form on this site.

Words are permanent

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Words are dangerous.  Words hurt.  Words can leave scars.  Be very careful what you say when dealing with your difficult person.

It is easy to lash back. It is easy to say things that are meant to hurt in the middle of a confrontation, whether it is intentional or not.  When someone pushes our buttons we often strike back verbally without realizing the dangers of pushing back.  It is so tempting to want to hurt the other person the same way they are hurting us.

Don’t.

The best thing you can do is to let a verbal attack hang in the air.  Say nothing at the time.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.

You’ll continue the confrontation/conversation at a later date.  At a date when you are calmer and so are they.

Have a look at a confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you. You’re an idiot. I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re so stupid and constantly messing up, there is no way I want your advice!

Mike: (Holds extended “silent” eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

Can you imagine if you were Mike?  The attack seemed to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.

Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Try it. It will save you from saying something you regret. Take the high road in situations such as this one.

You need to calm down!

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Calm Down

Calm Down

Doesn’t it drive you around the bend when someone tells you to calm down? That is about the worst thing you could possibly say to a person who has lost their cool. So don’t say it.  Ever.

I can appreciate that sometimes people get out of hand. I can appreciate that in order for us to proceed they are going to need to calm down.  However, telling them to calm down is like throwing grease on the fire – it will just cause a big blow up.

Instead of telling the other person to calm down, perhaps we need to say “I need to take a breather before we continue.  Perhaps we could continue this conversation in 45 minutes.”

I realize that when you are dealing with a client that option is not always available and you must deal with the situation immediately. Continue to speak calmly and with extra care – but don’t tell the other person to calm down!

Keep your own cool, and remind yourself to calm down – but don’t give that advice to an angry and difficult person. It will make matters much worse.  Breathe deeply …. But bite your tongue!

Our next webinar on Confrontation Skills will be May 25th at 2:00pm EDT.  To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance (per line) complete with 30 days of free coaching.  You can’t beat that value!

Is it OK to give up on your difficult person?

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Is it OK to give up on your difficult person?

There may come a time in your relationship with your difficult person when you realize it is never going to work out. You are never going to reach a middle ground. You are never going to change their behaviour.

Is it OK to give up? Absolutely!

We have choices to make in life. Times when you have to decide to accept a situation, change it, or leave it.

Accept the situation the way it is. Emotionally detach yourself from it (thereby removing all of the stress the situation causes). This is the “let go of it” approach to dealing with your difficult person. Just let it go. Accept that it is what it is, and decide you aren’t going to worry about it anymore. I have accepted that it snows in January in Ottawa, and I don’t give it another moment of thought. I have accepted that politicians don’t always do what they say they are going to do. I have accepted that my teenaged daughter is not ever going to clean the way I want her to.

Try to change the situation so it works better for you. You’ve probably already tried to do this. Tried to make the situation tolerable or to deal with it in some way. You attended a seminar on dealing with difficult people, you read books, you searched the Internet for advice. You formed an action plan, a strategy and had an end result in mind.

Walk away from the situation entirely. In the case of a difficult person, this means leaving the relationship. Quit your job, change departments,  no longer work with this person ever again. It means leaving the relationship and the family that goes with it. You can say hello when you see the person in the future, but the relationship will be similar to what you would have with a stranger. You leave the relationship emotionally.

When you give up, you choose to either accept the situation or leave the situation.

Accepting and leaving are not the same as quitting. By choosing to accept or leave, you are making a choice that is right for you. That isn’t quitting. Quitting implies a lack of choice. When you choose to accept or leave, you are making a choice. You have chosen what is right for you.

I ended a friendship I had with someone who became too high-maintenance for me. She moved into the category of difficult person because it seemed that I could never be the friend she wanted me to be. It didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t right.

I tried for a very long time to find the middle ground in our friendship. I was never successful. I thought about accepting her the way she was, giving her what she needed and not worrying about what I needed. I was unable to do that stress-free (because I couldn’t emotionally detach myself). I tried to find middle ground (change things), and wasn’t being successful. So I left the friendship. I gave up on it, and I’m OK with that.

What I didn’t do was continue the friendship, complain about her high-maintenance personality and continue to be stressed during our time together. It wasn’t worth it to me.

I decided to walk away. That was the right solution for me.

Go ahead and give up on your difficult relationship if that is the right decision for you. It’s a smart person who knows when to stop pushing forward and try another path.

Our next Dealing with Difficult Person webinar is April 1 2010 at 2pm EST.  Only $99.  To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com

Your buttons

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Do you know where your buttons are?

You need to know what makes you jump.  You need to know what makes you react unprofessionally, and then you need to know how to keep your cool when one of those buttons are pushed.

I tested myself this weekend with my teenaged daughter.   For those of you who have teenagers, I’m sure you’ll agree that at times they absolutely fall into the “difficult people” category.

Victoria tried several times on Sunday to push my buttons.  She wanted to fight, and was getting very frustrated when I did not react the way she wanted me to.

That in itself was worth it.  She did however, manage to get under my skin, and I too, was frustrated.  I just didn’t give the reaction I normally give.  I did respond though.

A response is the thought-out version of a reaction.  I responded, meaning I didn’t ignore her; I didn’t let her get what she wanted (a fight).  I kept my cool, held firm, but didn’t allow her to push my buttons.

That felt nice for me.

That frustrated her.

That felt nice for me!

It isn’t about winning and losing, but it is about doing the right thing at the right time with your difficult person. I did the right thing by not letting Victoria push my buttons.  Can you do that today?

What can we learn from Conan and NBC?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

obrien-cp-getty-94025389It seems that hardly a day goes by without some type of news about all that is going on with The Tonight Show on NBC.  It amazes me that these are professionals who should know better, but they continue to make some very simple mistakes that come with a lot of consequence.

They both need to learn to SHUT UP!  When you have an argument with someone in your workplace, the worst thing you can do is tell everyone else what happened, who said what, who did what etc.

This seems to be the pattern for both Conan and NBC.  Both are thinking they are getting good press for what they are saying in the public.

Both are wrong.  Sadly, they both look juvenile, and I will have a hard time supporting either in the future.

Learn from the mistakes of others.  When something is going wrong, keep your mouth shut. If you need to discuss what is going on, be very careful about who you chat with (they likely will chat with someone else), and what you say.  Take your frustrations to your family, or someone in HR, but not to a coworker, or coworkers!

If either of them had taken the high road, I would have supported them.  In the workplace, I don’t need to take sides, but it would be hard to support someone who was so obviously childish and unprofessional.

Take my advice and keep the information out of the workplace setting.  You will make the situation far worse. I would rather regret that I didn’t say anything than regret telling everyone everything.

Taming your emotions

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Emotions

Lets face it, at this time of the year; emotions are closer to the surface.  It is easier to get upset, angry and much easier to lash out when we are operating from the heart and not the head.

Regardless, take your emotions out of the equation. Write down your issue on paper so you can see it in black and white.  Take away the word “feel” from the description of what is happening.  Think black and white and logical and stay away from emotional.  Try to imagine yourself giving advice to a friend instead of giving advice to yourself.

If you operate from a position of emotion, you run the risk of saying and doing the wrong thing.

Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the black and white.  This will allow you to say ON THE RIGHT TRACK with your difficult person this week.

Are you dealing with an “Avoider:

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

An avoider is someone who hates confrontation. She would rather a situation sit and fester, than have to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us probably prefer to avoid rather than have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not me, that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an issue occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, and you might even arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you’re willing to deal with the issue.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful to use “I” language instead of “you” language (so that I didn’t put her on the defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared to say what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message was concise and outlined what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (thereby avoiding me altogether) asking to be removed from our distribution list and saying that she wanted to avoid further contact with our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly, professional way in which I was hoping we could deal with our misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about things, as I wanted to circumvent any hard feelings. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with sensitive issues via email. Email should be used as a confirmation tool, rather than a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she has been unwilling to co-operate.

Sometimes you will meet people who are not as professional or courteous—or courageous—as you are. Sometimes you will have to deal with sensitive situations in a manner that makes you uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be residual hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation here are my simple rules:

–            use “I” language, instead of “you” language;

–            avoid blame, and focus on resolving the situation;

–            be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, but rather are responding to it;

–            take the professional path (the high road), even in personal confrontations; and

–            know when to walk away.

I’m sorry that a simple misunderstanding has now become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation.

I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.

——

Join us for our next webinar on December 10th for Dealing with Difficult People.

Only $99 unlimited attendance (per dial in line)
2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone) – lasts 60 minutes
30 day no charge coaching for all participants
Executive Overview delivered to all participants.
Recording of session to use at a later date (think of a lunch-and-learn for your team!)

Contact Caroline@on-the-right-track.com about reserving TODAY!

Take the “High Road Less Travelled”

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

It is important to never give in to your desire to lash out, fight back, or hurt your difficult person.  Tempting, but don’t do it.

I would rather regret something I didn’t say than regret something I did say.

This week, be sure that you are the consummate professional.  Be the one to take that high road.  You’ll find that the traffic up there is much lighter than the traffic on the unprofessional road.

Our next session on “Dealing with Difficult People” will be held on December 10th at 2pm EST.  The holiday season is quickly approaching and your company needs to ensure your staff is prepared to handle all the difficult people that climb out of the woodwork!

Only $99 per dial in line.  Great training for a lunch-and-learn session.

Register with Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Dealing with Difficult People” in the subject line.

Take a step back

Monday, October 19th, 2009

There is always another perspective, always another way to look at things, always two sides to every story.

Force yourself to try to see the opposite point of view, even if it sounds ridiculous to you.

Whenever Warren, my husband, and I are driving and he starts to complain about the other drivers, I make a point to find some crazy, often silly, viewpoint which would explain why the other person was driving that way.

As much as it drives Warren crazy, it does get my point across, and sometimes calms the situation a bit.

Your difficult person still may be difficult, but taking the time to find another viewpoint is worth your time.  Sometimes it defuses your tension and sometimes it provides a moment of clarity, but taking a step back is always a good idea.

Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK to dealing with your difficult person this week.

Our next webinar is scheduled for November 10th 2009.  Confrontation Skills is at 2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone), and will last for one hour.  For only $99 you can get learn to confront someone while maintaining your control, confidence and composure.

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you all the information you need for your office to join our webinar.

Try the “Broken Record” Technique

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

It’s OK to say to your difficult person “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” instead of getting into a confrontation that you aren’t prepared for.

When you are being railroaded into a confrontation to discuss and issue “here and now” you do not have to agree to their terms. You aren’t being difficult back, you are just taking some control over the circumstances.

Practice the “broken record” technique.

Calmly say “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” and refuse to baited into having the discussion now – especially when it isn’t a good time for you.

The best part of the broken record technique is that you don’t run out of things to say. You calmly repeat the same thing over and over again. Find a time to continue the discussion that works for both of you.

Good luck, and keep on-the-right-track this week!

Our next webinar in November 10th on Confrontation Skills.

Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Reserve me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line today.

1 hour to satisfaction for only $99 (unlimited attendance per line)

A lesson from Serena Williams – keep your cool!

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Serena Williams lost it at the US Open last weekend. Her temper got the best of her and she reacted emotionally, inappropriately and unprofessionally.

What gets lost in the story is the calmness with which the line judge held herself.

Had the line judge yelled and threatened back to Williams, then we would have all jumped to Williams’ defense.

How people feel about footfaults being called during high-level matches would be irrelevant if the line judge had fought back. She didn’t, which was the perfect response.  And that response put all the fault on Williams who, alone, will pay for her outburst. (Williams was fined $10,000, the maximum penalty allowed for unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis, not to mention the loss of an important match and the untold damage to her reputation.)

After being called on a footfault during her serve, Williams walked over to the line judge, making a threatening gesture with her racquet and reportedly told her, “If I could, I would take this ****  ball and shove it down your **** throat.”  It is also alleged she threatened to kill the line judge, although Williams vehemently denies it.

Read more and watch a six-minute video of the confrontation at http://tinyurl.com/m2p8ka

If you were the line judge, could you have kept your cool in that situation? Could you have received those comments without fighting back?

It is important to remember that when one person loses it, the other should do the complete opposite, and remain very calm.

Do not interrupt the other person. Imagine if the line judge had angrily responded, ‘Are you threatening me?’ Even though I know that type of retort would have been wrong, I can imagine myself responding that way.

An angry response would have escalated the argument to much higher levels and Williams could have charged that she had been provoked.

Let the other person have her tirade; let her finish. If appropriate, call a time-out by saying something along the lines of, ‘This is not a good time to finish this conversation. Let’s meet again this afternoon’ – then walk away. Do not continue the conversation when tempers are flaring.

The line judge didn’t respond to Williams, but instead quickly got the referee involved.  The line judge kept her cool, even though she felt physically threatened, believing that Williams was threatening her life. That is the calm, cool exterior we want to achieve when we are in a confrontation.

A lot can be learned from this episode. Williams should have done things differently, and I’m certainly hoping she regrets her inability to control her temper.

Learn from the line judge, the referee and even Williams, so you can avoid being the front page news story at your office.

Strange techniques to help you keep emotions in check

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I’m a pretty private person. The ‘Rhonda’ I take to work is not the same ‘Rhonda I let my friends and family see. At work, I prefer not to show my emotions. I may be a big marshmallow in my personal life, but at work I don’t want those tears to flow. I don’t want to lose my cool and I never want to look nervous.

In discussing this with seminar participants, I’ve realized that I’m not alone, and that many people would prefer to keep control of their emotions in professional (and other) situations.

These tips may seem a bit odd. They do, however, work. I’ve tried them all and give them my personal stamp of approval.

Tears

When I get very angry or frustrated I will often be on the brink of tears. This frustrates me even more because the last thing that I want to do is cry at work. Try taking your pointing finger and pushing upwards against the base of the septum (the divider) in your nose. It will look like you are trying to squash a sneeze, and it does work. It even works in highly emotional situations. Recently I was at a funeral where I wanted to hold it together. I know that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry at funerals, but I didn’t even know the deceased, so I wanted to stop those tears from falling. I took my finger and pushed upwards on my nose. It worked.

Panic

There is nothing worse than your heart beating at 100 miles an hour, your mouth going dry, and the look of a deer in the headlights on your face. We’ve all been there. You can reduce your body’s natural ‘flight-or-flight’ reaction by getting control of your breathing. When panic sets in, we tend to hold our breath. When that happens, concentrate on breathing through your left nostril and then (on the next breath) through your right nostril. This won’t be noticeable to someone looking at you, but it will work.

Throat tickle
 
 
Just when you want to disappear into the wallpaper, isn’t that when your throat gets a tickle? Short of clearing your throat (and drawing unwanted attention to yourself), there seems to be nothing you can do about it. Until now! Do the Carol Burnett ear pull. Pull downward on your lobe. If you are wearing earrings, this is easy enough to conceal. Not only does it take your attention away from your throat tickle, it clears your throat. And no, I don’t know why.

Keeping your cool

When someone is pushing your buttons, it can be hard to stay in control. One way to keep your cool is to not look directly into the person’s eyes. Try looking at the space between their eyes, instead. This allows you to remain focused. This technique also works when speaking to someone who is wearing mirrored sunglasses, or who has a wandering eye.

Nighttime problem-solving

I had one of these nights recently. You’re up for hours solving all the problems of the world. It usually starts with the thought that, “If I had only…”. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to fall back to sleep after you’ve relived a horrible moment you had in the office during the day. When this happens, try wiggling your toes. Most people cannot wiggle their toes without thinking about it. When you are thinking about wiggling your toes, you can’t worry about your co-worker or anything else for that matter, and you will fall asleep.

Toe-wiggling also works in other places and situations – and it really is effective. At the funeral I was telling you about, I also wiggled my toes so I could focus on what was being said, rather than on my brain saying, “Don’t cry!” Combined with the nose raise, it worked quite well. It also works when you are trying to keep your cool with a co-worker and not tell her what is really on your mind. Listen to what your co-worker is saying and concentrate on wiggling your toes. You won’t have any brain power left to worry about what you are going to say.

If you have something a little strange that I haven’t listed here, I would love to hear it. Please send an e-mail to my attention and if we get enough of them we’ll include them in a future e-mail with more strange techniques on keeping our emotions under control.

I Language

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Any time you can avoid creating tension in your conversations with your difficult person, the better!

Take responsibility for what you need, want, have, hear etc.  Instead of saying “You need to….” say instead “I need…”

I’m not telling you that you will get what you need, but I am decreasing a defensive reaction by using “I” language.  “You” at the start of any sentence increases the odds that the tension will increase.  I promise you will see I’m correct! (which sounds much better than “You will see that I am correct!”)

There is tension in your dealings with your difficult person.  Don’t make it worse.


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