Archive for the ‘Quick Tips’ 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, 

Try These 3 Tricks When Working With Difficult People

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Yes, Don Corleone knew a thing or two about leadership. But dealing with other people’s egos is more complicated than Hollywood makes it look.

While many of us dream of leadership being that easy, we all realize, sooner or later, motivating others to comply with our requests is more complicated than Brando makes it look.

Like it or not, dealing and communicating with difficult people comes with being a leader. Whether it’s the business partner who wants too much or the employee who alienates his or her co-workers–learning to win an unfair fight is a critical skill set we all must obtain.

1. Deal with your own ego first.

Often, the fight is a battle with our own egos. Many times, as entrepreneurs, we feel we are the best, most competent person to get the job done, which makes us more likely to criticize others.

Keynote speaker and best-selling author Garrison Wynn says this need to condemn others is a major downfall of most leaders.

“If you criticize others’ ideas, they will almost never use yours, no matter how good they are,” said Wynn. “Entrepreneurs must decide whether they want to be right or be successful. The key is to practice ego-management.”

2. Make an agreement to change behavior.

Most executives go into confrontations hoping to teach people about the grave error of their ways.

“The problem of course is our righteousness has very little influence in the eyes of the difficult person,” says Wynn. Instead, Wynn recommends using this approach:

“I’ve been considering some of the problems we’ve been having and I think some of it is me. If I can get you to stop <insert the bad behavior here>, I will let you tell me how I can manage you better. Sound good?”

This works for a few reasons. One, the person’s ego won’t be bruised, as it alleviates them from being accountable. Two, this method levels the playing field and makes difficult people feel more powerful, thereby making them more compliant. “People want to be validated and feel heard,” says Wynn.

“While this works almost every time–in my experience–most executives won’t use this approach because they don’t want to take the responsibility for other people’s shortcomings. If you can get past it, you can master the worst type of personalities brilliantly.”

3. Provide the positive validation they seek.

While it may seem counterintuitive to take responsibility away from difficult people and put the onus on ourselves, Wynn’s theory is backed by research. According to a 2015 survey done by Psychology Today, 55 percent of people feel their self-worth is, more often than not, tied to what other people think of them.

And, as Oprah Winfrey famously said in a commencement speech at Harvard University, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people, and all 30,000 had one thing in common–they all wanted validation…They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”

To motivate people to change, validate their existing knowledge and demonstrate how it matches up with the new behavior you want them to embrace.

Peter Shankman, a serial entrepreneur, speaker and founder of Shankminds.com, gave me some sage advice for handling negative people. He said an old skydiving instructor told him, “If you can’t change the people around–change the people around you.”

“People are not out to screw you over,” said Shankman. “They are just out to better themselves. Once you understand that, it makes other people’s bad behavior more palatable.”

Recognizing insecurities, in yourself and in others, is a skill developed over time. It takes patience, understanding and a little creative problem solving. Master it, and you will hold all the secrets for dealing with difficult people.

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.

Can I Quit

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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.

– As appeared in The Huffington Post January 31, 2017

How To Deal With Difficult People

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Article by, Darylen Cote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Whiners, Know-It-Alls, and Steamrollers: Strategies to cope with even the most hard-to-take personalities.

We’ve all been there. There are just some people we can’t stand! Perhaps it’s the Whiner whose complaining drives you to distraction. Or it may be the Steamroller who makes you crazy—the person who pushes her ideas and never lets others get a word. People like this can make your PTO leadership experience seem endless and stressful, even blocking achievement of some of your most critical goals.

Every person has his own triggers when it comes to dealing with difficult people. Those triggers stem from your background, perspectives, and from your goals in the situation at hand. But there is good news. There are ways to deal with even the most difficult people that can bring out both their best and your best.

The first step, described by Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner in their book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, is to get to know your difficult person—to know what needs that person may be trying to fulfill that cause the problematic behavior. Successful leaders listen carefully to figure out the underlying motives.

Generally, people in any given situation are task oriented or people oriented. Their concerns center on one of four goals: getting the task done, getting the task done right, getting along with people, or being appreciated by people. When they perceive that their concern is threatened—the task is not getting done, it is being done incorrectly, people are becoming angry in the process, or they feel unappreciated for their contributions—difficult people resort to certain knee-jerk responses. Responses range from the passive, such as withdrawal, to aggressive, such as steamrolling or exploding. The difficult person often does not recognize that his behavior contributes to the very problems that he is attempting to address.

Brinkman and Kirschner identify 10 different behavior patterns often exhibited by people under pressure.

  • The Steamroller (or Tank): Aggressive and angry. Victims can feel paralyzed, as though they’ve been flattened.
  • The Sniper: The Sniper’s forte is sarcasm, rude remarks, and eye rolls. Victims look and feel foolish.
  • The Know-It-All: Wielding great authority and knowledge, Know-It-Alls do have lots to offer, are generally competent, and can’t stand to be contradicted or corrected. But they will go out of their way to correct you.
  • The Grenade: Grenades tend to explode into uncontrolled ranting that has little, if anything, to do with what has actually happened.
  • The Think They Know It All: A cocksure attitude often fools people into believing their phony “facts.”
  • The Yes Person: Someone who wants to please others so much that she never says no.
  • The Maybe Person: Procrastinating, hoping to steer clear of choices that will hurt feelings, he avoids decisions, causing plenty of frustration along the way.
  • The Blank Wall (or Nothing Person): This person offers only a blank stare, no verbal or nonverbal signals.
  • The No Person: He spreads gloom, doom, and despair whenever any new ideas arise, or even when old ones are recycled. The No Person saps energy from a group in an amazingly short time.
  • The Whiner: Whiners feel helpless most of the time and become overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all. They want things to be perfect, but nothing seems to go right. Whiners want to share their misery.

Just Get It Done!

Chances are you have had to deal with at least a few of these characters. These are not odd or weird people. They may even be you upon occasion. Everyone has the potential to be difficult given the right, or wrong, circumstances. To understand why, return to the concept of a basic orientation toward people or task. Couple that with the typical ways people respond under pressure, on a continuum from aggressive to assertive to passive. Then add in the goals people have under different circumstances.

According to Brinkman and Kirschner, when the goal is to “get it done,” people with a task orientation and aggressive temperament tend to dig in and become more controlling. They are the Snipers, the Steamrollers, and the Know-It-Alls. From their point of view, the rest of us are goofing off, obtuse, or just plain taking too long. The Steamroller can run over you if you get in the way. The Sniper often uses sarcasm to embarrass and humiliate at strategic moments. The Know-It-All dominates with erudite, lengthy arguments that discredit others and wear down opponents.

When the goal is to “get it right,” people under pressure who still have a task orientation but a more passive personality become helpless, hopeless, and/or perfectionistic. They become the Whiners, No People, and Blank Walls. When Whiners are thwarted, they begin to feel helpless and generalize to the entire world. Instead of looking for solutions, they complain endlessly that nothing is right, exacerbating the situation by annoying everyone around them.

No People feel more hopeless than helpless. Like A.A. Milne’s Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, their sense of gloom carries its own cloud. Their certainty that things can never be right can pull down morale for an entire group. Blank Walls simply withdraw. They will bear no responsibility when things aren’t exactly right.

Drive To Survive

People who want to “get along” tend to focus more on the people in a situation. When they are innately passive, they become approval-seeking Yes People, Maybe People, and sometimes Blank Walls. Yes People overcommit and underdeliver in an effort to please everyone. Their lack of follow-through can have disastrous consequences for which they do not feel responsible, because they are just trying to be helpful. When, instead, the people they want to get along with become furious, they may offer to do even more, building their lives on what other people want and also building a deep well of resentment.

Maybe People avoid conflict by avoiding any choice at all. Making a choice may upset someone, and then blame will be heaped on the person who decided. Maybe People delay choosing until the choice is made for them by someone else or by the circumstances. When Blank Walls have a people orientation, they want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. The old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all” gets carried to the ultimate extreme in this case. But Blank Walls also avoid sharing anything genuine or honest about themselves and therefore never really achieve the “getting along” goal.

Like To Be Liked

To “get appreciated” is the ultimate goal of people-focused, more aggressive folks. They include the Grenade, the Think They Know It All, and sometimes the Sniper. They share attention-seeking behaviors that never accomplish what they intend. The Grenades are aggressive Rodney Dangerfields; they think they get no respect or appreciation. When that feeling builds to a certain point, they have an adult temper tantrum. It’s not pretty and it certainly gets attention, but blowing up never gets them to the ultimate goal of appreciation.

The Think They Know It All person knows a little bit about a lot. He is so charismatic and enthusiastic that his half-facts and exaggerations can sound plausible and persuasive. When people discover that these people really don’t know what they are talking about, the attention they seek becomes negative.

The Sniper in this case is attempting to gain attention by being playful. Many people engage in playful sniping, but we all need to be careful about how it is being received. Whether it is funny or painful is truly in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes this kind of sniping is passed off as teasing, which can leave scars even when it’s friendly.

Looking in the Mirror

So what can you do to change the course of your interactions with these difficult people? There are some simple strategies that work well with practice and patience.

In general, when your difficult person speaks, make your goal habit number five in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand.” Often, unless you’re dealing with the Grenade or other overt hostility, it helps to mirror some of the nonverbal cues the person displays. Don’t overdo, as it can look like mocking if you copy every gesture. Your aim, according to Brinkman and Kirschner, is “blending.” If you adopt some of the same traits as your person, such as a facial expression or posture, you send the message that you are “with” them, on the same wave length. Blending begins to facilitate trust. Often we do this kind of thing without even noticing that it’s happening. You also need to blend vocally with the person you’re trying to understand. Volume and pace are two examples of how to blend with another person. Blending is how you begin to build rapport with people and signal that you are really listening. The only exception is yelling.

Also, some of what the person says needs to be repeated in a technique that counselors call “reflection.” This is a way of feeding back what you’ve heard, on both feeling and content levels, so that a person is sure that you’ve heard him. With no interpretation and without parroting exactly, use some of his actual words to demonstrate your understanding. How much to do it depends on the person you’re dealing with. With Steamrollers, keep reflection to a minimum. With Know-It-Alls, Yes People, and Maybe People, a great deal of reflection may be useful. This is especially true on the feeling level with Yes and Maybe People.

Get to the Real Issues

Next, ask clarifying questions to help your difficult person open up and to ensure that you fully understand all she has to say. The kinds of questions you want are open-ended, those to which there is more than a yes or no answer. They begin with what, how, where, who, when, and sometimes why—without an accusatory tone. A simple “Tell me more about…” can also serve the same purpose.

The importance of this information-gathering stage cannot be overstated. It keeps you out of a reactionary mode and helps you bring all of the issues to the surface. At the same time, it shows that you really care about what the person has to say. It can also begin to defuse emotions and help the person think more logically.

Finally, still in a “seek to understand” mode, summarize what you have heard and confirm your understanding. Do not assume you “got it.” Ask, “Did I get it right?” If not, keep listening until the person is satisfied that you understand.

The next step in the process has to do with attitude. Search for and acknowledge that the other person’s intentions are positive. This means giving the person you are dealing with the benefit of the doubt. Brinkman and Kirschner advise, “Ask yourself what positive purpose might be behind a person’s communication or behavior and acknowledge it. If you are not sure about the positive intent, just make something up. Even if the intent you try to blend with isn’t true, you can still get a good response and create rapport.”

Some Specific Responses

Consider this example.

“One of the duties of the vice president is to choose which six members go to the PTO Show this year,” Jerry reminded Jennifer again. “You have only two weeks before the deadline. Do you have any idea whom you want to go?”

“Not yet,” said Jennifer. “I want to be sure I make the right decision.”

“People need to make their plans, and we need to commit the money. The sooner you make a decision, the better for everyone,” prodded Jerry.

“OK. I’ll get to it,” promised Jennifer.

The next week, when Jerry inquired again, Jennifer said, “I’m still thinking about it!”

Jennifer is a Maybe Person. She will delay her decision until there is almost no decision to make because the deadline has passed or people can no longer rearrange their schedules with the short notice. Jerry might say to Jennifer, “I appreciate the care you are taking with this decision, Jennifer. I know you don’t want to leave out anyone who would like to go or who deserves this special reward. Who have you considered?” Simply stating understanding of Jennifer’s positive intention may unlock her indecision enough to move forward.

The next step to take when conflict emerges is to go beyond people’s stated positions to identify underlying interests or objectives. Brinkman and Kirschner call these “highly valued criteria.” They are the “reasons why” people desire specific outcomes.

Here’s another example:

Susan had agreed to chair the annual PTO carnival. The second planning meeting was underway when Marge, the vice president of the group and also the immediate past chairperson, barged into the room and started to berate Susan. “I heard that you’re eliminating the dunking booth! What a dumb decision. Don’t you have any brains at all? I thought you’d do a good job and now you’re making decisions that will ruin our carnival! Now here’s what you have to do…” And with that she barked orders while everyone else on the committee stared in disbelief. As quickly as she had come, she turned around and left.

Marge typifies the aggressive, angry style of the Tank or Steamroller. Once Susan gets her calmed down, it would be important to ask, “Why the dunking booth?” If she replies that the day invariably is hot and people enjoy the splashing and cooling effect of the water, then you have her underlying interest on the table. Another water game might satisfy that interest just as well, but you do need to slow the Steamroller down before you can get to the whys.

Say What You Mean

Stephen Covey’s habit number five also has a second part. Part one, “Seek first to understand …,” is followed by part two, “…then to be understood.” Once you have put in the time and hard work of deep listening, the goal is to speak so that you may in turn be understood. But watch your tone of voice. The old saying applies: It’s not just what you say but also how you say it.

The next step is to state your positive intentions: “I care that people at the carnival have a chance to cool off, too. I want to make it a fun and safe day.” When the Steamroller starts to interrupt again, tactfully intervene. Repeating someone’s name over and over until she stops to listen can accomplish that end. So Susan might say, “Marge. Marge. Excuse me, Marge.” Once the person has paused, you can insert your positive intent or a clarifying question, for instance. Then speak about the situation as you honestly see it. Use “I” statements, be as specific as possible, point out the impact of the behavior, and suggest a new behavior or option.

So Susan might say, “Marge, I appreciate your input. I know you want the carnival to go well, the same as I do. We replaced the dunking booth with another feature for a good reason. When you try to override our decisions without asking why, it sure makes the rest of us feel like our work isn’t worth much. Would you sit down and discuss our plans with us?” Marge may try to raise the volume and continue to steamroll, at which point Susan would need to start repeating her name again until she stops. Once Susan gets her piece said, she will need to be ready to stop and listen again.

When you have a Blank Wall, the person who chooses the ultimate passive response instead of an aggressive response, your tactics need to be a little different. First, even though you may not feel particularly relaxed, calm yourself. It will not help to push, so plan plenty of time. Ask the open-ended questions with an expectant tone and body language. Try to lighten things up with absurd guesses as to the cause of the silence. Be careful with humor, but if you can get at least a smile, it’s a beginning.

Make It a Habit

Difficult people are really all of us. Depending on the circumstances and our own perspectives, our behaviors can slip-slide into the childish, rude, or even churlish realms. The key is to think first instead of simply reacting when we feel pressured by time or by the competing interests and needs of others.

Thoughtful responses can help people identify their real needs and break negative behavior patterns that don’t serve anyone well. If you make a habit of listening deeply, assuming best intentions, looking for common ground, reinforcing and expecting people’s best behavior along the way, then the difficult people in your life may come to view you as a respected friend—as opposed to one of their most difficult people.

New Supervisor Worries

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Help Me Rhonda:

I’m new to my company, in my first supervisory position. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I want to be seen as a friendly boss but I feel like I’m being tested every day by my new staff members. For example, two of them will often be chatting to each other (in what is clearly a personal conversation), completely ignoring a ringing phone or the work they have to do. They won’t even stop when I walk by, and it feels like they are almost daring me to say something. How do I fix this situation without pulling rank or being too bossy?

Signed,
Cautious of Overstepping

Dear Cautious of Overstepping,

You’re absolutely right, they are testing you and right now you are not getting a passing grade.

Remember when we were in high school and a substitute teacher would come in? We’d put that poor teacher through the ringer just to see what we could get away with. We’d learn very quickly which substitutes would tolerate our bad behavior and which ones wouldn’t let us get away with anything. Your employees are doing exactly that to you.

At the moment, you seem more concerned with them liking you as a person than doing your job effectively. Work is not a popularity contest. They don’t have to like you. You do have to pay the rent and buy groceries though, so given a choice which would you choose, making friends or being effective as a supervisor? (Hint: If you choose making friends, then I would suggest that a supervisory position is not the right one for you).

The good news is that you can be an effective supervisor without alienating your employees. You can be friendly and still garner the respect your position deserves and ensure that the work gets done. If they decide to dislike you because you are expecting them to do their jobs, it sounds like they wouldn’t be the best kind of friends anyway.

The key is for you to be respectful, polite, specific and clear. That will demonstrate that you see what is happening but you aren’t making a big deal about it. The next time you walk by and the telephone is ringing, say: “Diane, could you please answer that ringing telephone?”

She will probably give you a funny look, but answer the phone anyway; or she’ll tell you why she isn’t answering the telephone. If she refuses, or if it happens over and over again then you’ll need to have a more detailed conversation with her.

Let’s assume the testing is continuing, the phone is continuing to ring, and you don’t feel that your instructions to answer the phone promptly are being followed when you aren’t around.

That’s when the DESC strategy will come in handy for you. DESC lets you plan what you are going to say:

D – Describe the situation objectively (rather than subjectively). Keep it black and white; state the facts with no interpretation of those facts yet. Your goal is to get them to look at you and wonder where you are going with this. Their likely response will be, “So?”.

“Diane, I couldn’t help but notice that the last four times I came out of my office you were engaging with Michelle in a conversation that didn’t appear to be work related.”

E – Explain the problem. This is where you give your interpretation and perhaps the consequences of the situation. After you make this statement, you should be prepared for a defense statement from them.

“It actually makes it look like you do more socializing than working, and when deadlines aren’t met I can’t help but think that if you chatted less and worked more we could get everything done on time.”

S – Solution. Offer a solution or ask for a solution. Always begin with the end in mind. Know what you want the solution to be before you ever have the confrontation.

“Could you and Michelle please restrict your socializing to coffee and lunch breaks?”

C – Commitment or Consequence. You want to get the other person to agree with you or make some type of comment that at least affirms that they have heard and understood you. You don’t want this to be a lecture, but more of a discussion.

“Does that sound reasonable to you?” (wait for the answer).

or

Consequence. If your position warrants it, and it’s necessary, you can give a consequence.

“Since this is the second time that I’ve mentioned it to you, I will tell you that if we need to have this conversation again, it will be an official conversation and a record of the conversation will go into your personnel file.”

Let them speak, defend or whatever will keep the conversation going. Don’t lecture. Do your best to get agreement (commitment) from them during the conversation. If necessary, follow up with an email.

You don’t have to be a tyrant but you are being paid to supervise, and although you are working with adults we all sometimes need to know what we can get away with and what we can’t. Set boundaries. Say what needs to be said, respectfully and professionally.

Your job is to be an excellent supervisor, not make friends. However, you can do both if you approach situations methodically and professionally.

Good luck.
Rhonda

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

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

Thursday, December 8th, 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 said way 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.

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.

Article by, Tony Schwartz



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 Facebook and connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.


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.

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

With winter in Ontario only a few short months away, I’m reminded of receiving my license. It was a blustery Saturday when the Young Drivers instructor was coaching me through skid maneuvering. We were in the parking lot of a local grocery store and trying (that’s right, on purpose) to get the car to skid out of control.  The maneuver wasn’t that difficult, just speed towards a snow bank and then turn sharply and hit the gas. BOOM – instant skid.

What was interesting about the training was how to get out of a skid. I can still remember when I made it into my first skid. I nervously grasped the wheel and shouted out to my instructor, “now what?!”

She replied, “Turn in the direction of the skid.”

 What??!

It would seem that by turning into the skid you gain control of the vehicle again. Counter-intuitive to what you might think.

This philosophy came to mind recently during the formulation of a strategy with a large board for a publicly traded company. We had one employee who had been around for years and who, despite everyone’s desire to walk on eggshells in his presence, was an obstacle.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but let me ask you, if the board members name someone during the swat analysis as being an “obstacle,” do you think it’s a recognized issue? Absolutely!

I’ve learned over the years that the most difficult obstacles in any organization are often the ones that are living and breathing. You know what I mean. There’s Bob in the corner office who is stuck in his ways, or Sally who has been with the organization since its inception and disagrees with everything you say.

Living, breathing obstacles are often the most difficult to overcome. If only we could tuck them away somewhere, like in the trunk of a car… (Kidding. Sort of.)

The interesting thing is that dealing with this type of obstacle is no different than dealing with a skid on icy roads.

You need to agree with them.

That’s right; agree with what they are suggesting, when they suggest it. Give them the floor, let them speak their mind, and agree with them.

Sound counter-intuitive? Well, it might be, but it’s the only way to diffuse them as an obstacle.

I’ve repeatedly found that when you let those who oppose ideas fully voice their opinion, they tend to lose their stamina. In fact, I often find that those who are most boisterous are often so as a result of having others dismiss their ideas for long periods of time. The longer they perceive they are ignored, the more of an “obstacle” they become.

If you allow them a stage to fully voice their opinion and explain it to others, there is an 80% chance they will feel listened to, validated, and be prepared in turn to fully listen to the ideas of other.

So the next time you have someone speaking out in rebellion towards the ideas of your board or leadership team, give them the floor and hear them out. You just might find that not only do they share some information that may have been missing from their earlier explanations, but they actually lose momentum and avoid skidding out of control.

Article by, Shawn Casemore

The Arguments Your Company Needs

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Asked several years ago to describe the most important argument taking place at Walmart, then-CEO Lee Scott immediately replied, “The size of our stores.” The world’s largest retailer was debating just how small its footprints and formats could bewhile still serving customer needs and its own brand equity promise. That conversation, Scott said, provoked a lot of new thinking and analysis.

The most important argument at a fast-growing Web 2.0 services provider revolved around its “freemium” offer. Should the firm aggressively test multiple ways to hybridize its free and fee services? Or would prizing and positioning simplicity above all make the most sense? For a prestigious publisher, the essential — and vociferous — disagreement cut to its entrepreneurial core: Should its popular conferences reinforce the firm’s “countercultural” vibe? Or should they comfortably embrace the world’s biggest, richest, and most established firms, as well?

All firms have strategies and cultures. But sometimes the quickest and surest way to gain valuable insight into their fundamentals is by asking, “What’s the most important argument your organization is having right now?”

The more polite or politically correct might prefer “strategic conversation” over “argument.” But I’ve found the more aggressive framing most helpful in identifying the disagreements that matter most. Of course, there’s frequently more than one “most important argument.” And arguments about which arguments are most important are — sorry — important, as well. (If people insist there are no “most important arguments,” the organization clearly has even bigger unresolved issues.)

The real organizational and cultural insights — and payoffs — come not just from careful listening but recognizing that, as always, actions speak louder than words. What role is leadership playing here? How is the CEO listening to, leading, or facilitating the argument? Is disagreement viewed as dissent? Or is it treated as an opportunity to push for greater clarity and analytical rigor?

Sentiment is as important as situational awareness. Some arguments stir organizational emotions in ways others do not. Similarly, some disagreements energize the enterprise just as surely as others drain the life out of people. Having the same most important argument for years tends to be a very bad sign.

Responses to most important arguments typically fall into one of three rough interrelated categories: strategy, values, or people. Strategic arguments tend to be the most straightforward: Do we compete in this space or not? Are we going to be a leader or not? On the other hand, values arguments are understandably more complex: Does attempting to serve a new customer base compromise who we (think) we are? Do we want to make ourselves even more data-and-analytics-driven in our decision making? Does our intense customer focus risk violating their privacy? Values arguments, even more than strategic disagreements, tend to engage a greater portion of the firm. Healthy arguments around conflicting values demand smart facilitative leaders and leadership at all levels.

Intriguingly, the worst most important arguments I hear usually revolve around people. The CEO or a particularly intrapreneurial business unit leader exhibits behaviors or makes comments that polarize. What did the CEO mean by that? Can you believe the company lets that manager get away with that? What might be called gossip in some organizations mutates into strategic or values arguments. Values and strategic arguments are played out through people and personalities. Corporate characters are alternately heroes, knaves, wizards, and fools. There’s often a fine line between strong and powerful leaders and personality cults. If you think the most important arguments going on in your organization revolve around particular individuals and their unusual mix of style and substance, watch out.

But that affirms one of the great virtues of the question: Are you having the kind of most important argument you want your organization to have? Are you having the right kind of arguments in general? Are your arguments illuminating the path forward or providing the organizations with even better rationalizations and excuses for inaction?

And if you’re not having the right kind of important arguments, then just how much is consensus and alignment really worth?

By, Michael Schrage


Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of the books Serious Play (HBR Press), Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (HBR Press) and The Innovator’s Hypothesis (MIT Press).

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

Strategies For Working With Difficult People

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

ANGER

Who is the most difficult person you work with? Does it feel to you like they spend each evening plotting and planning on how to ruin the next day for you? Does it drain your energy just thinking about this person? You’re not alone. It seems that every one of us has a ‘difficult to deal with’ person in our life. They take a lot of energy just to ignore, and many of us wish they would just go away.

If you can identify with this scenario, finish the rest of this sentence: “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…”

What is your ‘if’?

Now go back and look at what you wrote. Is your answer dependant on them doing something to change? Why do you think they would be willing to change to make your life easier? You’re right, they won’t. So how are we going to be more effective when working with this person?

There are three things that you can change.

1. The System. Perhaps this person is difficult because they are a stick to the ruleskind of person and you aren’t. It can be very frustrating to you and that this person is so stuck on the system you don’t agree with. If you could just change the system it would make your life a lot easier, don’t you think? Of course, changing the system is an extremely time intensive proposition with no guarantee of any success.

There are people, like Erin Brockovich for example, who are able to change the system but most people decide that the effort does not equal the payoff. If this is your situation, you may choose to avoid trying to change the system. I’m not saying that it won’t work — I am saying that it will take a lot of your time and efforts before you see any dividends. It may be easier to take another approach with your difficult person.

2. The Other Person. You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “If you plan on changing your spouse when you get married, it makes for a very interesting first marriage.” It’s not so easy to change the other person because there is no incentive for them to change. Why should they? What they are doing is currently working just fine, isn’t it?

Consider a co-worker that listens to his music at a very loud volume. He likes I that loud, it helps him drown out all the other noise in the office. You despise the type of music he listens to, and it is far too loud for you to concentrate. You’ve asked your co-worker to turn it down every day for the past three months and it has now escalated into an all-out war between the two of you.

You are trying to get your difficult person to see that his music is too loud and you cannot concentrate. You are trying to change his perspective on the volume. Why should he turn it down? He likes it just the way it is. Trying to change the other person is often like hitting your head against a brick wall; it just doesn’t work very well. There is no incentive for the other person to take your perspective.

3. You. Of course, you do have one hundred percent control of what you do. You could try to change your perspective on the situation. Let’s assume that your difficult person is Mary, and Mary loves to complain about the company you work for. She says things like, “they don’t appreciate us”, “I’m doing all the work around here and never get any recognition”, and “this is an old boys club and women will never get in senior management positions”.

Basic whining and moaning, all the time, day in and day out. At first, you agreed with some of the things she said, and occasionally got pulled into the negativity yourself. After a while, you realized how destructive this was to your attitude and you tried to convince Mary that she was wrong. This, of course, just intensified the situation and the negativity seemed to get worse. You’ve probably moved into the same ‘zone’ that many of us do when confronted with Mary, saying “You’re right, this is a terrible place to work,” hoping that your agreement will make her go away faster.

Did it work? Not really. What Mary wants is attention and acknowledgment. You are giving her both of those things. We need to change what we are doing to get a different result.

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,
you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”

You’ve heard that before, and it is completely true. If we want to change the way Mary is acting, we need to change what we are doing, and not give her what she wants. People are difficult because they are getting something out of the deal. They may be getting attention, agreement or even success because of it (think of aggressive drivers). If we want them to do something different (remember the opening question?) then we need to DO something different.

The next time Mary says “I hate this company”, don’t argue with her or agree with her, give her what she doesn’t want (agreement, attention, etc.) and say something like “I LOVE working here!” Don’t worry about if you agree with what you are saying or not, give her something other than what she wants. She wants to complain. She wants to be negative. Don’t give her what she wants.

This will work! Sometimes a lot of work too, especially if you happen to be in a negative mood that day and agree with her. Don’t give into the temptation. Be 100% consistent in this approach. For two weeks this will be very difficult for you. I promise that if you are consistent and not give Mary what she wants, then she will change her behaviour.

The next time you are asked the question “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…” the right answer lies within you. You can change what is happening with that person. It takes time, effort, persistence and patience.

The result is worth the effort!


Article By,

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

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

A Survival Guide For Managing Difficult People

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

They’re sarcastic, cynical, and negative, but you don’t want to fire them. Hope and help for managing people who drive you nuts.

Ideally, when you’re leading or working with a team, you have a group of people who work in good faith to get the job done well—and get along while doing so. Then, there are those folks who are just miserable. Perhaps they’re cynical or sarcastic. They may be negative, unreliable, or gossipy. Sometimes, they’re even worse—engaging in backstabbing or trying to undermine your authority.

Of course, you’re not going to get along with everyone at the office, but if you’re a leader, you’re in a position to take action to mitigate the damage these dismal souls can do, says Elizabeth Holloway, PhD, professor at Antioch University’s PhD Program in Leadership & Change and coauthor of Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power. As you begin to use your authority to deal with your challenging team members, there are some helpful steps you can take.

FIGURE OUT WHY THEY ARE DIFFICULT

Some people are unpleasant and some damage the organization, says Michael J. Beck, founder of Michael Beck International, a Portland, Oregon-based performance consulting and employee engagement firm. Try to get to the bottom of why your employee is acting out. Is he or she dissatisfied with the work or the company? Is there an issue going on at home? Beck says asking good questions and observing the employee in action can give you some insight into whether you’re dealing with a difficult personality or another issue that can be fixed.

LEARN THE TYPES

Personality tests like the DiSC profile can be useful in gaining insight into your workers, their preferences, and how they like to communicate, says Gerald Bricker, principal of Aadvise Consulting, a business coaching firm in Northville, Michigan. Such insight can be difficult for people to articulate, and these tests can give you a bit of insight that might otherwise be hard to obtain, he says. There is also a body of research and writing about how to manage different personality types, he adds.

If there’s a clear understanding of that person, what their makeup is, and how best to communicate with them, that will go a long way toward helping to overcome those challenges, he says.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR DIFFERENCES

Sometimes, simply calling out the fact that you and your colleague have different approaches can be enough to defuse the tension, Beck says. Say something like, “Boy, we really have different styles, but let’s see how we can work through this.” That way, you’re not delivering negative criticism, but you’re recognizing the fact that there’s an issue, he says.

HEAR THEM OUT

Bricker says that, many times, people who seem to have personality issues are people who feel like they’re not being heard or are unhappy with their work. They feel like they’re not being heard or respected. In such a case, Bricker suggests having a private conversation and just listening.

“Once they’ve had a chance to air out their thoughts and their feelings, that really contributes greatly toward solving the problem,” he says. You can gain insight about what the problem really is and take steps toward solving it.

BE OPEN TO CRITICISM

Once you have that sit-down, Bricker says you might have to hear some things that aren’t very pleasant. Sometimes, employees have legitimate complaints about the workplace, company culture, or supervisors. (That might be you.) Then, you’ve got to figure out a way to deal with it, he says.

“Sometimes, that might mean explaining in very clear, rational terms why things are the way they are. It may mean looking into what they have to say and understanding that something was overlooked,” he says.

DELIVER CONSTRUCTIVE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

Holloway says that managers need to be trained in giving negative feedback effectively. Simply calling out someone for bad behavior often doesn’t work. Instead, relate it to the bottom line. For example, point out that when the employee responds in a certain way, it shuts down conversation and makes meetings less effective.

REALIZE THAT NO ONE IS INDISPENSABLE

It might feel like that difficult employee is impossible to fire because he or she is so good at the job. But Toxic Workplace coauthor Mitchell Kusy, PhD, also a professor at the Antioch leadership program, says that you have to look at the overall cost to your organization. In research for the book, he and Holloway found that 12 percent of individuals leave their organization because of toxic personalities. If your difficult employee is driving out other employees, it might be time to say goodbye, even if it’s a challenge in the short term.

 By, GWEN MORAN

Healthy Ways To Deal With Emotional Pain And Grief

Monday, June 13th, 2016

FRIGHTENED

How do you deal with emotional pain? The kind of pain that sits in your heart and occasionally (sometimes without warning) breaks your heart just a little bit, and you feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Many of us can relate to that.

Let’s consider the unfortunate events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. I knew none of the people who died personally — but that does not stop the pain. I expect that had I known anyone on a more personal basis, my pain would be just a little more intense. During a time like that, it is hard to believe that it can be more intense. Yet, as we all know, life must go on for those of us who were left behind.

The question is, “How do we continue on when we are in pain?” Valid question, and here are a few of the solutions I offer to people:

It is OK to suffer from pain. Do not believe that you do not have the right. Perhaps you do have a family member who passed away or a beloved pet that died. As children we were embarrassed to cry in front of people, and we have carried on that belief into our adult lives.

It is OK to cry or hurt. So the first solution is to stop trying to cover or bury your emotions — instead, allow them their freedom at the appropriate time.

The reality is that your bully, or your difficult person can cause you an incredible amount of emotional pain. It isn’t the same as death, but emotionally it can be just as exhausting.

My grandfather passed away while I was in England working for some clients. I knew he was dying, and had made the decision to leave on the business trip anyway. I did say goodbye to him — and discussed my decision (with their full support) with my dad and family. I was hoping that he would wait a little longer (20 years might have been nice), but his time came just after I arrived in London. I found out the news during the lunch break of one of my all-day seminars.

Obviously, I had to continue on during the day and not let my emotions take control. I was allowed to feel pain — just not right then. I applied a little trick that I share in my stress management programs: I took the emotional feeling (in this case, sorrow) and put it into an imaginary “box” in my head. I closed the lid on the box and picked a time later on when I felt I could open the lid and deal with the emotion.

 

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box.”

 

I had to continue on with my job. I also needed to cry and deal with my own sorrow (and guilt, in this case). So I allowed the emotion to sit in the box, and I would deal with it when I was alone in my hotel room.

We can do the same thing with the emotional pain that our bully/difficult person causes us. Allow yourself to close it up sometimes, so that it is not affecting all areas of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy, even though you are dealing with an incredible amount of pain and emotional turmoil. Don’t let your bully/difficult person ruin every aspect of your life.

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box. As far as dealing with emotion in a healthy way, it is imperative that you go back to that box fairly soon after you closed the lid. You will notice that this technique works when you are dealing with the death of a member of your immediate family. It amazes me how well people stand up at the wake, and the funeral, and many don’t cry at all. They will, it will just be at a time of their choosing.

The next technique is used when the emotions are stronger than the lid on the box. Your tears just come anyway. I happen to be quite good at a silent cry. You know the kind — you are driving down the highway singing away to a song, and before you know the tears just start on their own. Of course, that works great for many of us (especially if we are in the car alone). But sometimes, those tears just start in a meeting, while working at your desk or while walking down the hall.

My solution is to let them come! While the tears are streaming down your face,take deep breaths (you need oxygen to steady your emotions). The next step is tocontinue doing what you were doing (and pretend that you are not crying). Honestly, just keep going! So what if you are in the middle of a conversation? Just keep going! Pretend you don’t notice.

Your voice will waiver, your hands will shake and the tears will fall. Keep going. This will probably only last for 15 to 30 seconds if you don’t call attention to it (really — it doesn’t take that long to get back into control — I dare you to try it!. The person you are speaking with will probably ask you if you need a minute — the answer is “no.” Keep going.

If you really do need to stop, do so. Don’t feel that you need to explain to your co-worker why you are crying. Just tell them you’ll be back in 10 minutes ready to continue. But try talking right through it — you can do it. Ever had to give eulogy? Of course we cry during that, but we have to keep going. And after a little while, our normal voice returns and we get control again.

To summarize:

1. It is OK to suffer from pain and to cry or hurt. Don’t apologize for being an emotional person. Take pride in yourself. You are a caring and loving individual. Why should we apologize for that?
2. Don’t try to cover or bury your emotions.
3. Take deep breaths, but let the tears come anyway.
4. Keep doing what you were doing before the tears started!

A book that helped me a lot is called Emotional Confidence by Gael Lindenfield (Harper Collins Publishers). I picked it up in London after my grandfather died, but you could get your bookstore to order it for you.


 

Rhonda Scharf Headshot

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.

Positive Steps for Managing Conflict

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

10 strategies to help minimize the negative impacts of office tension

Situation: Morgan and Jose are arguing about which steps to take next to implement the Micah Project. Morgan wants to move ahead immediately; Jose wants to rethink the situation and perhaps consult with other members of the department to avoid making a rash decision. Morgan becomes impatient and blames Jose for dragging his feet once again. Jose doesn’t want to ruffle Morgan’s feathers, so he does nothing about the differences of opinion, hoping that Morgan will let up on the pressure. The result is a stalemate.

This is a typical situation where conflict freezes progress and stymies many managers. We must first ask why Jose, like so many other employees, does nothing. The answer is because he probably believes in some very common and unfortunate myths about conflict:

  • Conflict is bad and terrible things will occur if differences in opinion are aired.
  • Conflict will rip apart the team or its esprit de corps.
  • Other employees will be mad at him.
  • He would be calling too much attention to himself by making a big deal out of the situation.
  • It’s better not to engage in conflict; harmony must prevail at all costs.
  • The parties will never get over those negative feelings.
  • The issue will cause a chain reaction that will halt or delay productivity and involve other people.

At this point, you as the leader might be questioning your own views of conflict, as well you should. But do you know how to actually define conflict? No, it’s not some terrible, unmanageable, out-of-control creature. Conflict is simply defined as tension, which is neither good nor bad. Positive tension, that energy that leads to increased creativity, innovation and productivity, is a dynamic byproduct of two or more people sharing their views, even if their views are inconsistent or out of synch with each other. Negative tension is an unproductive, off-putting, harmful result of people not working together to arrive at a positive solution.

What causes tension? The list is endless and mostly individualistic. We all have our vulnerabilities and views that lead to tension, especially the more common negative tension. Most people experience negative conflict when they are supervised and fear an unfavorable evaluation. Similarly, tension arises when employees feel they are being compared with each other or are vying for the same resources, such as time, money, people or equipment. Other employees are conflicted when under deadlines, especially when they do not have the assistance of other helpful employees. Still others have great difficulty dealing with change; breaking or changing habits is almost always difficult. Even if a change seems to be positive, it often is accompanied by some form of conflict, simply due to the change or potential performance evaluation under a new system with new policies, processes or colleagues. And finally, negative tension easily and most commonly erupts with differences in opinions, especially those that are firmly held.

So what positive steps can leaders take to minimize the negative aspects of conflict?

  1. Realize that conflict is natural and happens all the time.
  2. Stress the positive aspects of conflict; just because tension arises, the world is not going to collapse. In fact, if handled well, conflict often leads to innovation.
  3. Realize that conflict can be handled in a positive way that leads to personal and professional growth, development and productivity.
  4. Encourage others to bring up conflict and differences. Allowing them to fester inevitably encourages them to erupt later, usually at a most inopportune time.
  5. Identify the root cause(s) of the conflict. You can’t begin to unravel the potential negativity in conflict and look toward progress until you determine the source of the issue.
  6. Look at the issue from all sides. Inspect the positive and negative factors that each party sees to fully comprehend what is at stake.
  7. Devise a complete list of actions to address the issue; ensure that each party believes that he/she has had input in the final product or decision.
  8. Decide on the step that best addresses and resolves the issue. Again, all parties need to see that they have had input into this step.
  9. Agree on whatever next steps are necessary to implement the mutually agreed-upon action.
  10. Review the process that you used to arrive at the final decision, hoping to implement a similar successful plan when negative conflict next arises.

An effective leader is willing to address spoken and unspoken negative tension and helps transform it into positive, productive tension that leads to increased understanding of the issues, the parties involved and the final outcome.

Article by,
DR. DAVID G. JAVITCH

8 Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Like the old Saturday Night Live character, Debbie Downer, some people are only happy when they’re unhappy and bringing down everyone else around them too.

Here are eight tips for dealing with difficult people at work.

1.   Don’t get dragged down—The old saying is “Misery loves company.” The most important thing is to be aware of who the Debbie and David Downers are in your company and to make sure they don’t suck you into their world of negativity.  Keep your guard up!

2.   Listen—It’s tempting to just tune these people out, but this rarely stops them. If anything, they’ll talk and argue more forcefully because they’ll think nobody cares about them. The best thing to do is to use good, normal active listening techniques, as you would for anyone else.

3.   Use a time limit for venting—Remember that there is a difference between being a perpetual pessimist and having an occasional need to vent. Everybody has tough times, and sharing our feelings can make us feel better. Use the “5-minute rule” when it comes to this. Let your colleague vent for five minutes, but after that, assume that he’s entered Downer mode, and proceed with the next steps.

 4.   Don’t agree—It’s tempting to try to appease Debbie Downer to make him or her stop and go away. As the person complains about benefits or the boss or whatever, you might be inclined to give a little nod of your head or a quiet “yeah” or shrug a “what can we do?” Even though these responses seem harmless, they just throw fuel on the flames.

5.   Don’t stay silent—If you are clearly listening but say nothing, Debbie Downer will interpret your silence as agreement. Worse, if others are present, they too will assume that you agree. Whether the complaint is about the boss or the benefits or the client, silence means you agree with the complainer.

6.   Do switch extremes into facts—Negative people often speak in extreme terms that match their worldviews. They talk about “never” and “always.” Your first goal is to switch them to fact-based statements.

Negative Ned: Andy is such a slacker! He’s never on time for our morning meetings. How are we supposed to hit our deadlines when he’s never here?

      You: Ned, you’re clearly frustrated. I seem to remember that Andy was on time at our meetings on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week. He was late on Thursday and Friday. So you mean he’s late frequently, not always; right?

7.   Move to problem solving—People who whine a lot often feel powerless and believe that the situation is hopeless. Your only chance of ending their negativity is to help them to move into a problem solving mode. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the only antidote known.

8.   Cut them off—If, after all your efforts, you deem these people to be hopelessly negative, you need to cut them off. Make sure they aren’t just venting for a few minutes, make sure you weren’t previously encouraging them, make sure they can’t switch to problem solving, and then politely shut them down.

      You: Can we change the subject? You’re really bumming me out. If you want to vent for a couple minutes, fine. If you want me to help you solve the problem, fine. But life is too short to wallow. Let’s move on to something else, OK?

Creating a great workplace culture should be everyone’s job. Don’t let Debbie and David Downer harm your company or your own level of engagement at work.

________

Manage Conflict Well or It Will Manage You

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

2014-11-11-Manageconflict650718_s2300x199.jpgMost executives acknowledge difficulty in dealing with conflict. Conflict comes in many guises. It can be person to person or group to group. It can be an in-house clash with direct reports and attendant personnel. Sometimes conflict occurs with external vendors, contractors, and consultants. It’s not uncommon for conflict to worm its way into otherwise tight-knit leadership teams or fracture the relationship between community partners and leaders.

Conflict is omnipresent at union bargaining tables, in legal arenas, and is first-row center seat when bureaucrats and businessmen step into the ring. Depending on the size of the organization, conflict can morph into a mighty conflagration with the help of local and international media. Bottom line: any time people work together you have tinder stacked and ready for conflict.

Conflict is inevitable but its outcome depends on how it is managed. So how or when should executives deal with conflict? Sometimes the best decision is not to react and let time-bequeathed amnesia do the job. Sometimes, however, delaying a response can make the conflict worse. Conflict management isn’t ever comfortable and is all too-often avoided to the peril of the leader and the business.

Conflict is like a dance when partners step on each other’s toes while trying to figure out who’s leading or even what dance step to employ. Oftentimes the dancers go back to their respective seats limping and eager to commiserate with other dancers on the maladroitness of their clumsy oaf partner and swearing never to dance with them again. Often, other injured dancers chime in and what was an interpersonal problem becomes class warfare and the embattled leader has to put business goals on the back burners and do foot rubs to keep the conflict under control.

Conflict handled timely and effectively is carried out more like a conversation than a confrontation. And while the conversation may not be easy, doing so timely and consistently and effectively results in better outcomes. It is less likely the other party will feel affronted or surprised if a repeat conversation is needed.

Here are seven ideas and scenarios that may help as you determine a course of action or your intervention:

    1. Make it a habit to keep the issues and conflicts between the parties and practice the art of not talking with others about something that doesn’t involve them. As simple as this sounds venting to others typically makes matters worse and often word can get back to the person(s) being talked about. Gossip needs to stop if conflict is to be handled well.
  • Learning the lesson that anything one says or does can be held against them in a court of law or can show up on the news helps in managing conflict. Be discreet in how and when you speak or send a message that is conflictual.
  • Stay defenseless. When managing conflict, emotions run high. Staying defenseless and taking an approach to understand versus accuse can reduce emotions which helps to create an environment favorable for conflict resolution.
  • With customers, own mistakes and mishaps that are the company’s to own.Don’t try to defend the company; listen and own what you can. If multiple customers, families and friends are impacted, such as in an airplane crash, you may need a strong media plan to deal with communication to interested parties. The larger the conflict or the greater the consequence of it, the more public it becomes.
  • In the case of union conflict, clear and transparent communication about organizational change and activities is critical to keep union unrest at a minimum. Delaying communication tends to send the message you don’t want to communicate or have something to hide. Another tactic that is effective is to keep union representatives informed in advance of a change and activity and if possible obtain union input into the process.
  • If there are performance issues with a direct report, a vendor, or a contractor, deal with the issues timely or you risk the possibility of escalation into a real conflict. It is easier to ignore an issue or conflict than to deal with it. But when it comes to performance, the issues don’t tend to resolve without the performance being discussed. Instead, the issues continue and non-performers remain oblivious to the problem. Procrastinated conflict-resolution can unleash violent reprisals that are out of proportion for the current issue and the employee, vendor, or contractor will be caught off guard.
  1. As the CEO, getting involved in employee conflict should be a last resort unless the conflict has gone through due process and it is now in your hands to hear the concerns and determine appropriate actions. While an employee’s anxiety may be dissipated because s/he has been heard by the “top dog”, care must be taken in how the CEO resolves the situation to avoid throwing a direct report “under the bus“ by taking or being perceived as taking sides.

Make it a habit to embrace rather than avoid conflict. If you deal with anything conflictual early into the process, the results are typically more favorable than letting an issue or conflict fester.

Article by, Terri Wallin , Founder Wallin Enterprises
This post first appeared on WallinEnterprises.com. Let’s connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Arguing Is Pointless

Monday, April 4th, 2016

It was lunchtime and the seven of us — two kids and five adults — would be in the car for the next three hours as we drove from New York City to upstate Connecticut for the weekend.

We decided to get some takeout at a place on the corner of 88th and Broadway. I pulled along the curb and ran in to get everyone’s orders.

In no time, Isabelle, my eight year old, came running in the restaurant.

“Daddy! Come quick! The police are giving you a ticket!”

I ran outside.

“Wait, don’t write the ticket, I’ll move it right away,” I offered.

“Too late,” she said.

“Come on! I was in there for three minutes. Give me a break.”

“You’re parked in front of a bus stop.” She motioned halfway down the block.

“All the way down there?” I protested.

She said nothing.

“You can’t be serious!” I flapped my arms.

“Once I start writing the ticket, I can’t stop.” She handed me the ticket.

“But you didn’t even ask us to move! Why didn’t you ask us to move?” I continued to argue as she walked away.

And that’s when it hit me: arguing was a waste of my time.

Not just in that situation with that police officer. I’m talking about arguing with anyone, anywhere, any time. It’s a guaranteed losing move.

Think about it. You and someone have an opposing view and you argue. You pretend to listen to what she’s saying but what you’re really doing is thinking about the weakness in her argument so you can disprove it. Or perhaps, if she’s debunked a previous point, you’re thinking of new counter-arguments. Or, maybe, you’ve made it personal: it’s not just her argument that’s the problem. It’s her. And everyone who agrees with her.

In some rare cases, you might think the argument has merit. What then? Do you change your mind? Probably not. Instead, you make a mental note that you need to investigate the issue more to uncover the right argument to prove the person wrong.

When I think back to just about every argument I’ve ever participated in — political arguments, religious arguments, arguments with Eleanor or with my children or my parents or my employees, arguments about the news or about a business idea or about an article or a way of doing something — in the end, each person leaves the argument feeling, in many cases more strongly than before, that he or she was right to begin with.

How likely is it that you will change your position in the middle of fighting for it? Or accept someone else’s perspective when they’re trying to hit you over the head with it?

Arguing achieves a predictable outcome: it solidifies each person’s stance. Which, of course, is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with the argument in the first place. It also wastes time and deteriorates relationships.

There’s only one solution: stop arguing.

Resist the temptation to start an argument in the first place. If you feel strongly about something in the moment, that’s probably a good sign that you need time to think before trying to communicate it.

If someone tries to draw you into an argument? Don’t take the bait. Change the subject or politely let the person know you don’t want to engage in a discussion about it.

And if it’s too late? If you’re in the middle of an argument and realize it’s going nowhere? Then you have no choice but to pull out your surprise weapon. The strongest possible defense, guaranteed to overcome any argument:

Listening.

Simply acknowledge the other and what he’s saying without any intention of refuting his position. If you’re interested, you can ask questions — not to prove him wrong — but to better understand him.

Because listening has the opposite effect of arguing. Arguing closes people down. Listening slows them down. And then it opens them up. When someone feels heard, he relaxes. He feels generous. And he becomes more interested in hearing you.

That’s when you have a shot of doing the impossible: changing that person’s mind. And maybe your own. Because listening, not arguing, is the best way to shift a perspective.

Then, when you want to leave the conversation, say something like,”Thanks for that perspective.” Or “I’ll have to think about that,” and walk away or change the subject.

I’m not saying you should let someone bully you. This weekend I was in a long line and someone cut in front of me. I told him it wasn’t okay and he started yelling, telling me — and the people around me — that he was there all the time, which was clearly not true. I began to argue with him which, of course, proved useless and only escalated the fight.

Eventually a woman in the line simply drew a boundary. She said, “No, it’s not okay to simply walk in here when the rest of us are waiting” and she stepped forward and ignored the bully. We all followed her lead and, eventually, he went to the back of the line. Arguments: 0. Boundaries: 1.

When I went online to pay the parking fine, I tried to dispute the ticket. Before arguing my case though, a screen popped up offering me a deal: pay the penalty with a 25% discount, or argue and, if I lose, pay the entire fine. I thought I had a good case so I argued and, a few weeks later, lost the case.

Next time, I’m taking the deal.

Peter Bregman is CEO of Bregman Partners, a company that strengthens leadership in people and in organizations through programs (including the Bregman Leadership Intensive), coaching, and as a consultant to CEOs and their leadership teams. Best-selling author of 18 Minutes, his most recent book is Four Seconds (February 2015). To receive an email when he posts, click here.

How to Manage Conflict

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Last November, Philippe, a 33-year-old French banker, left Paris for a new challenge in London. He thought that a new job in a fast-growing British investment bank would give him valuable international experience and develop some new skills. The bigger salary and bonus were also a draw.

One year on, Philippe has a different view of his move. When I met him last week, he explained that the year had been a disaster and his job was in danger as staff had made formal complaints about his management style. He had found it difficult to adjust to his new role, but he had not realised that his style had created such conflict within his team.

Philippe felt he had been acting appropriately, but his colleagues and team members felt he had been inconsistent, favouring some members of his team and undermining others. His line manager had recommended coaching to help him improve his communication skills, understand the culture and develop his people skills. Philippe had agreed to the coaching but felt aggrieved that the bank had not done more to prepare him for his role with training and a proper induction. The main problem, he said, was the bank’s matrix structure and its focus on profit-making, which encouraged managers to fight for territory and resources rather than building teams and developing people. In short, the bank deliberately created a culture of conflict rather than collaboration.

Of course, both sides have a point. Philippe needs to change, but so does the environment in which he is operating. I am often asked to work with individuals in a conflict situation, but rarely does the organisation ask for feedback on why the conflict occurred and what they might do to prevent it. In truth, little is done at the organisational level to mitigate conflict.

Organisational conflict is emerging as a key workplace issue among the people I coach. They tell me that there is a lack of will and/or skills to deal with conflict and have many theories as to why it occurs and what happens when it takes root. From being an unwelcome distraction, conflict in a team or department can quickly spread, to damage relationships, lower productivity and morale and in extreme cases lead absenteeism, sabotage, litigation and even strikes.

So why are so many people experiencing conflict at work? There are two key factors.

First, the matrix structure adopted by many organisations has resulted in unclear reporting lines, increased competition for resources and attention and general confusion as managers try to develop an appropriate management style.

Second, globalisation has caused change and restructuring so that businesses operate more flexibly. There has been a rapid growth in virtual teams, with people from different backgrounds and cultures working across vast regions and time zones. Email and electronic communication are the most practical ways to connect, but these can be anonymous and lead to misunderstanding.

In addition to matrix management styles and globalisation, there are a number of other sources of conflict, including:

• Different cultures and assumptions
• Differing values, opinions and beliefs
• Lack of sensitivity to race, gender, age, class, education and ability
• Poor people skills, especially communication
• Volatile, fast-changing workplaces
• Limits on resources, physical and psychological

So what are the ways to manage conflict? How can managers ensure that it does not escalate out of control? According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument, there are five key styles for managing conflict:

• Forcing — using your formal authority or power to satisfy your concerns without regard to the other party’s concerns
• Accommodating — allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own
• Avoiding — not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it
• Compromising — attempting to resolve the conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties but completely satisfactory to neither
• Collaborating — co-operating with the other party to understand their concerns in an effort to find a mutually satisfying solution

Another way to look at conflict is to decide the relative importance of the issue and to consider the extent to which priorities, principles, relationships or values are at stake. Power is also an important issue – how much power do you have relative to the other person?

As a rule, I would suggest collaboration is the way to deal with important issues, although forcing can sometimes be appropriate if time is an issue. For moderately important issues, compromising can lead to quick solutions but it doesn’t satisfy either side, nor does it foster innovation, so collaboration is probably better. Accommodating is the best approach for unimportant issues as it leads to quick resolution without straining the relationship.

And lest we forget, conflict does have a positive side: it can promote collaboration, improve performance, foster creativity and innovation and build deeper relationships. As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, “all the good-to-great companies had a penchant for intense dialogue. Phrases like ‘loud debate’, ‘heated discussions’ and ‘healthy conflict’ peppered the articles and transcripts from all companies.” The more skilled managers become in handling differences and change without creating or getting involved in conflict, the more successful their teams and companies will become.

 

Gill Corkindale is an executive coach and writer based in London, focusing on global management and leadership. She was formerly management editor of the Financial Times.

Body Odor, Bad Breath and Business

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Body Odor

Have you found yourself in an awkward position of having to tell someone his or her bad breath or body odor is no longer acceptable? Do others complain to you but they don’t have the nerve to broach the problem directly?

Try this approach and you will be pleasantly surprised how easily the issue can be addressed. Here are four ideas on how to approach this delicate situation. Do you have something to add?

  1. “I have something of a personal nature to discuss with you.  Is this a good time for you?”
  2. “Under most circumstances this wouldn’t be my business, but because we work in close quarters (work with the public, etc) I need your help. It seems that your body odor (or bad breath) has become an issue and others (clients, colleagues, customers) have complained. How can I help you address this because something needs to change?”
  3. “Under most circumstances this wouldn’t be my business, but because we work in close quarters (work with the public, etc) I need your help. It seems that your body odor has become an issue and others (clients, colleagues, customers) have complained. What do you think you can do to address this?” (Notice it is similar to #2 but with a twist at the end.)
  4. “There are some things even your best friend is too embarrassed to tell you, but I know I would want someone to tell me.  You have a body (or breath) odor and it needs to be addressed.  I’m bringing this up primarily for you because this can be an indicator that you have something medically going on that is not good.  What can I do to help?”
  5. “As an employee you are perceived AS the company and have a reflection on how people see our team. This isn’t an attempt to humiliate or intimidate you.   I’m simply asking you to address it and take care of it.  OK?”

Give them a deadline on when this needs to be resolved. Keep yourself open as a resource. Addressing issues in with your team, peers and superiors is your responsibility. Learning how to confidently address every issue through polished communication places you ahead of most other people. This important skill will spill over into your personal life too. Let me know what ideas you have!

Cheers, Marsha

p.s. Let me know if you need to further build your group by helping them improve communications, reduce conflict, polish platform skills, or listen more skillfully. The benefit is helping people embrace change, save time and build bottom line.

Marsha Petrie Sue
Professional Speaker, Executive Coach and Best Selling Author

Cell 602 418-1991 or Marcia Snow@MarshaPetrieSue.com

www.MarshaPetrieSue.com
Marsha@MarshaPetrieSue.com

Conflict Management & Resolution for Your Partnering Success

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

By Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE
Website: http://www.rigsbee.com/

In times of conflict you can take one of two positions. First the position is that of having your heels dug in and believing you are RIGHT. The second position is where you care enough to understand what is motivating the other person’s behavior. My recommendation, as you might have guessed, is the second.

Just to make a point, I’d like you to think back to the last argument you had with your spouse, parent, child, a friend or in a business situation. Do you see yourself in the argument? Now, I ask you which position did you take?“ The first,” you say? I thought so. If you had taken the position of trying to understand the other’s position, there most likely would not have been an argument. We humans are not perfect. As such, we sometimes we fall into our stuff. At these times we are not the best people we could be. But, it is the person who recognizes that they are in their stuff and makes a new behavior decision that makes a good partner.

You might be thinking, “Thanks for the info, Ed, but why do I have to always be the person who makes the change, the person who makes it works? Why can’t it be the other guy once in a while?” My answer to you is simply that you are the one who figured it out first. Get out of your stuff and, as Nike says, JUST DO IT®.Listed below are some additional tactics to help you resolve conflict.

  • Evaluate your, and your partner’s, conflict management styles. Understanding each other is a great start.
  • Identify and plan strategies to deal with non-productive behaviors before they crop up.
  • Give positive feedback as often as possible so the relationship does not take on a negative tone through only fire fighting interactions.
  • Confront problem situations at once rather than waiting for the situation to escalate.
  • Invite comments from all stakeholders early in every project, especially your alliance partners.
  • Consider using humor and maybe even humility in certain situations.
  • Encourage dissent at a time and place that serves all involved.
  • Review the value of the alliance relationship. Determine how much your circles of interest overlap. Ask if winning this battle will get you closer to an OSR, or further away from it.
  • When you hear something you don’t like, repeat it back in an informational way. See if the message you received was the same as it was intended. Misunderstanding is the root of much conflict.
  • Know your buttons and don’t allow them to be pushed. You have control in this area.
  • Completely listen to what the other guy has to say before you open your mouth. Remember the adage, Listen twice before speaking once. That’s why God gave you two ears and only one mouth.
  • Remember the principle of saving face. In some societies, it is a matter of life or death. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, this is not usually the situation in North America.
  • Keep your ego in check. Be clear on the difference between high self-esteem and high ego. One serves and one does not. Need I say more?
  • Appoint a devil’s advocate and allow them to be involved in projects from the start, all the way through completion. Their job is to be a pain in the neck. It’s not that they are just picking on a certain person or position. This keeps people from taking a dissenting opinion personally.
  • Keep the consequences of your decisions in mind.
  • Value the opinion of others. Focus on the clarity of the water, not the spring from which it flows.

I understand that building Outrageously Successful Relationships can be difficult at times. My best advise for you: Know the value of your relationships. Know where you want the relationships to go and stay on course. Accept that quality Partnering just takes time and effort. Accept that there isn’t any magic–just dedicated implementation.

5 Times Will Tell

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

When you are dealing with your difficult person, you can expect that their behaviour will get worse before it gets better. This is a good sign. This means that they are noticing that something has changed, and are digging in their heels to get what it is that they need.

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 move from 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.

When you decide what your strategy is, keep with that strategy (don’t change it) for a minimum of five times. If after keeping consistent with this approach you find that it isn’t working, or they are becoming much more difficult, then you can change your approach.

Initially they will be surprised, and then they will get more difficult. After five consecutive times of you implementing your strategy you will notice that they are either getting easier to do deal with, or more difficult. You decide if you want to be a little more firm (or stubborn) with your approach, or it makes sense to try something different.

After five times you will notice a change. Be consistent though and good luck.

Dealing with Emotional Pain

Monday, April 7th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

How do you deal with emotional pain? The kind of pain that sits in your heart and occasionally (sometimes without warning) breaks your heart just a little bit and you feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Many of us can relate to that.

Let’s consider the unfortunate events that took place on September 11, 2001. I knew none of the people who died personally – but that does not stop the pain. I expect that had I known anyone on a more personal basis, my pain would be just a little more intense. During a time like that, it is hard to believe that it can be more intense. Yet, as we all know, life must go on for those of us who were left behind.

The question is “How do we continue on when we are in pain?” Valid question, and here are a few of the solutions I offer to people:

It is OK to suffer from pain. Do not believe that you do not have the right. Perhaps you do have a family member who passed away, or a beloved pet that died. As children we were embarrassed to cry in front of people, and we have carried on that belief into our adult lives.

It is OK to cry or hurt. So the first solution – don’t try to cover or bury the emotions – but allow them their freedom at the appropriate time.

The reality is that your bully, or your difficult person can cause you an incredible amount of emotional pain. It isn’t the same as death, but emotionally it can be just as exhausting.

My grandfather passed away while I was in England working for some clients. I knew he was dying, and had made the decision to leave on the business trip anyway. I did say goodbye to him – and discussed my decision (with their full support) with my dad and family. I was hoping that he would wait a little longer (20 years might have been nice) – but his time came just after I arrived in London. I found out the news during the lunch break of one of my all day seminars. Obviously, I had to continue on during the day and not let my emotions take control. I was allowed to feel pain – just not right then. So I applied a little trick that I share in my Stress Management programs. Take the emotional feeling (in this case, sorrow) and put it into an imaginary “box” in your head. Close the lid on the box. Pick a time later on when you can open the lid and deal with the emotion. So in this case, I had to continue on with my job. I also needed to cry and deal with my own sorrow (and guilt in this case). So, I allowed the emotion to sit in the box, and I would deal with it when I was alone in my hotel room.

We can do the same thing with the emotional pain that our bully/difficult person causes us. Allow yourself to close it up sometimes, so that it is not affecting all areas of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy sometimes, even though you are dealing with an incredible amount of pain and emotional turmoil. Don’t let your bully/difficult person ruin every aspect of your life.

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box. As far as dealing with emotion in a healthy way, it is imperative that you go back to that box fairly soon after you closed the lid. You will notice that this technique works when you are dealing with the death of a member of your immediate family. It amazes me how well people stand up at the wake, and the funeral, and many don’t cry at all. They will, it will just be at a time of their choosing.

The next technique is used when the emotions are stronger than the lid on the box. Your tears just come anyway. I happen to be quite good at a silent cry. You know the kind, you are driving down the highway singing away to a song, and before you know the tears just start on their own. Of course, that works great for many of us (especially if we are in the car alone). But sometimes, those tears just start in a meeting, while working at your desk or while walking down the hall. My solution is to let them come! While the tears are streaming down your face, take deep breaths (you need oxygen to steady your emotions). The next step is to continue doing what you were doing (and pretend that you are not crying). Honestly, just keep going! So what if you are in the middle of a conversation – just keep going! Pretend you don’t notice. Your voice will waiver, your hands will shake, and the tears will fall. Keep going. This will probably only last for 15-30 seconds if you don’t call attention to it (Really – it doesn’t take that long to get back into control – I dare you to try it!). The person you are speaking with will probably ask you if you need a minute – the answer is “No”. Keep going. If you really do need to stop, do so. Don’t feel that you need to explain to your co-worker why you are crying. Just tell them you’ll be back in 10 minutes ready to continue. But, try talking right through it – you can do it. Ever had to give eulogy? Of course we cry during that, but we have to keep going. And after a little while, our normal voice returns and we get control again.

So, to summarize:

1- It is OK to suffer from pain and to cry or hurt. Don’t apologize for being an emotional person – take pride in yourself. You are a caring and loving individual. Why should we apologize for that?

2- Don’t try to cover or bury your emotions.

3- Take deep breaths, but let the tears come anyway.

4 – Keep doing what you were doing before the tears started!

A book that helped me a lot is called Emotional Confidence by Gael Lindenfield (Harper Collins Publishers). I picked it up in London after my grandfather died, but you could get your bookstore to order it for you.

Are you able to stay calm?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

My cousin Danielle works in a bank here in Ottawa.  Just last week she was robbed (again)!

She tells the story as calmly as you would tell me about your weekend.

When I asked how she remained so calm, she looked at me as if I was crazy and said “It wasn’t my money.  As long as I gave them money, they were happy and they were going away.  I didn’t get worried about it because I knew I could give them what they wanted.”

She put it all in perspective, and remained calm.

Do you stay calm when dealing with your difficult person? Are you aware that virtually all the time, it really isn’t about you, it really is about them?

When you’ve got that co-worker that insists in pointing our your every mistake, mentioning it to your co-workers and boss, making you feel incompetent, that it really isn’t about you making a mistake, it is much more about them feeling better about themselves (because it wasn’t them that messed up!)

When you’ve got that co-worker that talks incessantly? That just never shuts up? It isn’t about you at all, it is about them liking the sound of their own voice, and feeling important.

It is a little easier to take when we look at this way isn’t it?

Here are some tips to staying calm in a stressful situation:

–       take five deep breaths. The kind of breath that goes from your toes to the tip of your head

–       slow down. If you are walking, slow it down. If you are driving, try driving the speed limit for a while. If you are sitting around a board room table, pay attention to your “fidgeting” and try to sit still

–       de-personalize the situation. Ask yourself if it was anyone else in your shoes, would the same situation happen. Sometimes it is personal, but most times it is not.

–       Imagine you were giving your friend advice in the same situation. What would you say to her?

Don’t be quick to respond, bite back or react to your difficult person. Take a minute to figure out what is that this is really about. Is it about you, or really about them?

Dealing with Difficult People Webinar

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Did you know that we offer webinars on all the topics presented on this website? Dealing with Difficult People will be held next on October 18th. Confrontation Skills will be held on November 20th and Beat the Bully on December 6th 2012. They are each just $99 per dial in line, so gather up everyone around the boardroom table, and listen together. Great information – always live (so it is timely) and everyone gets 30 days worth of no-cost coaching with Rhonda Scharf.
A great way to keep the information fresh! Register today by emailing Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com.

Is bullying part of growing up?

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“A little bullying never hurt anyone. It makes you learn to stand up for yourself, be a man if you will.”

Bullying good for you? NO WAY!

That’s exactly what I heard sitting the restaurant the other day. It was a conversation between three senior gentlemen, in reference to a news story that was playing on the television being broadcast in the restaurant.

I couldn’t help but listen once I heard that. The three men proceeded to talk about in “their day” bullying was normal. It was part of growing up, and all the kids enjoyed it. One went on to say that he bullied all the time as a young boy, including his own best friend, and that the kids that were being bullied enjoyed it too.

Seriously?

I will be the first to say that there are many interpretations of what bullying means, and that many people who accuse of bullying are incorrect. Bullying is the new racist label. When something bad happens, people call out that they were bullied.

The local politician who claimed the reporter interviewing her was bullying her? No. The interviewer was trying to get the politician to answer a specific question, and not to redirect the interview to her own agenda. That’s not bullying by the reporter at all. That’s a tenacious reporter.

The parent who accused the teacher of bullying her child at school? No, the teacher sent the child to detention because they refused to do the homework assigned. That’s consequence, and part of the teacher’s job to teach responsibility. The teacher is not being a bully.

Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance.

The coworker that is systematically trying to destroy your reputation so that she can get your job? That’s bullying. The kids in the playground that beat you up when you were a kid until you give them your lunch money? That’s bullying.

I’m hoping what the senior gentleman were speaking of was a little more along the lines of friendly teasing. I hope it wasn’t the true definition of bullying, because I’m pretty sure that no one enjoys that at all.

I used to hide on my brother and try to scare him. While he didn’t like it, I wasn’t bullying him. When my son starts to tell us a story and says “I have a friend who…” and we jump in with “You have no friends”. We are playing a game that we all know the rules to, and everyone is having fun. It isn’t bullying either. When someone in the office gets me a coffee, it isn’t because I forced her to in order to avoid the consequences. Maybe she wanted to get me a coffee.

Don’t lose sight of what bullying really is. Don’t allow it to continue, but don’t assume that bullying “helps make a man” either.

The gentlemen in the restaurant were wrong with their perception of bullying. Their opinions could be very hurtful to someone that is truly being bullied.

Back Stabbing CoWorker

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

It seems that unprofessional adults can be found in every workplace. Sometimes it is so outrageous that it must be deal with instead of just tolerated or ignored.

Imagine you had a coworker that was the type of person that pretended they were the boss’ friend. Your coworker was super nice to the boss when she was around, but the minute her back was turned, your coworker turned into the most negative, anti-boss supporter you’ve ever met. Constant criticism, blatant disrespect and very unprofessional.

What do you do?

Backstabbing is one of the most undesirable traits that anyone can possess. Fortunately, we were given the ability to decipher what is right from wrong and the choice to backstab or not to backstab is an easy one for most of us. But what to do when you just observe it?

To start, do not entertain any conversation that will lead to badmouthing about your boss. Don’t agree, don’t nod your head, don’t mmm mmm, don’t smile. Guilt by association is very real, so you want to make sure that you just don’t tolerate this.

Perhaps you need to walk away in the middle of the sentence, with a clear message that says you will not participate in this conversation at all.

Maybe you need to vocally defend your boss (regardless if you agree or not with what your coworker is saying, it is the right thing to do), by saying something like “I like working with her”  or “I don’t agree at all.”

If you really wanted to show your displeasure, say “Would you say this if she were here right now? Then why are you saying it now? It is unprofessional.”   You can expect that conversation will stop in a hurry. You can also expect that subsequent conversation will be about you too (but at least you are aware of it!).

Running and telling the boss is a tactic I wouldn’t recommend. You could look like a tattletale and take the brunt of the attack as well. Racing to Human Resources would offer the same advice from me.

Deal with the unprofessional coworker. Deal with it quickly, without a smile, and with a very clear message that you will not participate.

“I” Language

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

The importance of I language

It seems to me that rule 101 of any communication course is “Use I Language”.

That means instead of starting sentences with:

–       you should …

–       you need to  …

–       you have to …. etc

Sentences should start with:

–       I need…

–       I want….

–       I feel … etc

Sentences that start with the word You instantly cause defensiveness. I know that technically tone is more important than words in communication, but the word You is a dangerous word and causes an emotional reaction very quickly.

“You need to call me back” (even in a nice tone) sounds so different from “I need a call back.” Even in a less than nice tone it sounds better than the first sentence.

What we need to be careful about is the danger of  the “me, me, me” conversationalist (see http://on-the-right-track.com/are-you-a-me-me-me-conversationalist/ for a longer article on those dangers).

When dealing with a difficult person, a confrontation or a bully, words DO matter more than in regular conversation with friends. Emotions are higher. Triggers are closer to the surface and we tend to read far more info statements when there is tension in the relationship.

So today, watch all the sentences that start with You (even with those people where there is no tension). Make sure you start with “I” but don’t become a “me-me-me” conversationalist too.

Perhaps it removes a trigger on your difficult person’s radar, and it just might help keep those conversations neutral.

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.

Do you work with a “Chatty Cathy”?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Chatty Cathy

Do you work with chatty coworkers? Not just the friendly, conversational type, but the type that never stop talking? Ever? You are not alone! We have all encountered an overly talkative colleague who always seems to catch us just as we are leaving for lunch (or the bathroom)! Here are some good ways to deal with a “Chatty Cathy” in the workplace.

1.  Be consistent. It doesn’t make sense for one day for you to fully participate with Chatty Cathy, and the next day ignore her. If you are not consistent about needing to get back to work and limiting the amount of chatter you do participate in, you could be sending mixed messages. No wonder she wants to chat – she thinks that today you might want to as well.

2.  Be honest! If you are heading to the copier and your chit-chatter is stalking you to regale you with another story…be honest!  Let them know that you really do have a lot of work that needs to get done, and you need to concentrate on what you are doing. You may not be received with a smile, but the chatting offender will think twice before trying it again.

3.  Be patient. Try to remember that work is an environment where everyone has to function as a unit. Dealing with chatty coworkers can be as simple as being kindly patient and gently helping them understand you need to get to your work. This person may only be trying to befriend you and nervously chats to make conversation as a show of friendship.

4.  Be firm. If you have tried everything else and you still can’t seem to get work done because of the chatter, let them know that they really have to stop chatting so much. In today’s world, productivity is a great deal of your yearly evaluation. If a coworker is diminishing your productivity, that can lead to an unfavorable evaluation of your work. The majority of people will understand if it is phrased that you are concerned that you may not be as productive if chatting continues.

5. Be polite. You don’t need to imply that they clearly have no work to do, nor that your work is more important. Rudeness is not necessary, so remember to smile, say please and thank you and respect your Chatty Cathy while you are limiting the conversation. You don’t have to like her, but you do need to be polite.

And finally, be sure to evaluate your own actions. Perhaps you are approached by your chatty coworker, because generally you are chatty too. Be careful of labeling others of something you may be guilty of.

Working with a Bully?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

You have enough to worry about at your job, and getting bullied by your coworkers should never be one of them. It is normal to fear retaliation by a workplace bully.  Running away and letting them continue to bully you is not the right approach (but you already know that!).

Write Everything Down

If you’ve been bullied, write down everything that you can about the event. Don’t forget the basics, like what day the event occurred, where it occurred, who was around and what was said.  Please be truthful and objective (black and white). Do not embellish or get emotional. Stick to the facts as best as you can remember them.  Keep in mind that your bully’s supervisor will need this information in order to be able to see a pattern if possible.

If the bully is harassing you via email, text messaging, fax, audit reports, time sheets, memos or by good old snail mail, then smile.  The work has been done for you.  Collect as many of these as you can before you go up the ladder. You can report to your boss, your bully’s boss, Human Resources, your union rep, or whoever you think will be able to best help you immediately..

Don’t Be Alone

Your bully will deny any and all of the accusations brought against him or her.  Expect that. Make it much harder for the bully by never being alone in a room with her. Make sure that someone else is always within earshot that can back you up. A bully is more likely to harass their victims when the victim is alone than even when just one other bystander is nearby.

If you can’t find a human witness, then carry a mechanical witness with you in the form of a cell phone camera or a small tape recorder.  Do a test run with your cell phone inside of a jacket pocket or lying on a table to hear how well voices record. Many cell phones have excellent audio. Carrying a tape recorder is much easier to do in the winter than in the summer, unless your blazer has an inside pocket.

Resist Revenge

This step is hard to do. You will constantly think up things you can say or do to get back at your bully.  Just think them – don’t actually do them. It’s never okay to act on these revenge fantasies, even if the bully really REALLY deserves it. They can easily backfire and cost you your job.

Whenever you do interact with your bully, keep a calm and even tone of voice. Don’t yell and don’t swear that you’ll get even. Don’t even bother to tell them you are documenting all of this. Pretend that you are being watched by the boss. If the bully tries to back you in a corner, move as quickly as possible to anyplace that would have other employees around.

Relax and Talk to Friends

You should not have to spend your off hours worrying about getting bullied again.  Since this is a problem that ís bothering you, you will need to let off some steam. Talk to your friends and loved ones.  They may have tips for you. They may also have been in a similar situation and can sympathize. Better to speak to friends that are not friends at work though.

Bullies try to make their victims feel as if they deserve to be bullied. Spending time with people who value you can not only get you to relax, but can wreck the bully’s plans.

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?

After the confrontation

Monday, March 28th, 2011

After the confrontation
‘Pretending’ is a valid way to begin the healing process.

When we think about a confrontation, we think about handling the situation, and we tend not to think any further than that. We assume that once we work up the nerve to confront the other person, everything will return to normal. Unfortunately, that won’t necessarily ever happen, and certainly it won’t happen immediately.

“Karen” and I had a major disagreement professionally and a confrontation to go along with it. We both got very emotional and the situation actually got to the point where mediation was required.

In the years that followed, Karen became very good at avoiding me. She stopped attending events where she knew I would be. While our disagreement was technically over, she was unable to handle the tension that followed and preferred to avoid me altogether.

I can completely relate to her approach, and in fact I have done exactly the same thing recently. I had a confrontation in my personal life that ended up in a win-lose situation. I felt that I had lost; I had not gotten what I had wanted from the situation.

This resulted in residual anger within me which caused me to avoid “John” and his wife “Jennifer” at any events we would both be attending. I backed out of events, I went the long way around rooms, and I even showed up late so I wouldn’t have to chat with them. These dodges worked well for me, and I assumed it was the best way to deal with the situation until my emotion tapered off, taking the tension along with it.

Originally, my confrontation and tension were with John. However, since most people confide in others, creating camps, he naturally confided in his wife. The tension in the relationship was no longer between John and myself; Jennifer was now part of the awkward situation.

Although this happened some time ago, it created a very high level of tension in my life for quite some time. While I practiced avoidance, John and Jennifer were downright dismissive of me. If I was unable to avoid meeting them, they would look the other way, pretend to be speaking to someone else, or look right through me as if I wasn’t there. At one point, we all descended from opposite elevators at the same time, and I felt invisible. Even though I wasn’t ready to breach our relationship gap, I pretended everything was fine and said “Hello,” hoping to start a brief, yet friendly, conversation. They didn’t acknowledge me. Not surprisingly, this caused increased tension and downright anger on my part.

Pretending
Pretence, like avoidance and dismissal, is a way of dealing with interpersonal tension. Although pretending is not easy, it is useful to get your dysfunctional conflict to a place where you can pretend that everything is fine.

That’s where I am with one of my family members. Our disagreement has existed for years. However, once or twice a year, I am in a family situation where we both pretend that we get along. We never speak of the situation that caused our initial tension. We no longer feel the need to force each other to admit she was wrong. We are polite and friendly, and although it is completely superficial, it is the right way for us to handle the tension from our previous confrontation.

Back to Karen
After several years of avoiding me, my professional colleague, Karen, finally attended an event. I didn’t want our fractured relationship to spiral downward any further. Our confrontation was over, and it was time to move on. I found Karen and asked if we could have coffee to talk about things. She agreed. It was a risky move on my part, and I don’t regret it at all. I took the high road. Enough time had passed so that I no longer wanted Karen to avoid me. I needed to pretend initially in the conversation, to at least start the talking. Fortunately, she didn’t dismiss me the way John and Jennifer had.

The next time we have coffee, I am sure we will have the requisite ‘weather’ conversation (pretending) until we can comfortably speak about what happened, agree to no longer avoid, and move on to a new level in our relationship.

Avoidance
Avoidance is procrastination. Tension will not go away if it is forever avoided. You need to get to the point where you can move to ‘pretend’ mode.

Dismissal
Dismissal is continuing to fight. There will be no winners, only scars that last a lifetime and potentially escalate to a higher level of confrontation in the future. With the dismissal I felt from John and Jennifer the tension instantly built again. While I was willing (even if not ready) to ‘pretend’ that all was well, I was angry at the disrespect I felt from them.

I’ve moved back into avoidance mode with John and Jennifer until I feel I can move into pretend mode. Until John and Jennifer are ready to do the same thing, the residual tension will continue to exist and make pretending much harder in the future. Perhaps it will never happen, but since I don’t intend to live with this tension forever, I will continue to put myself on-the-right-track by dealing with this negative emotion.

Pretending is by definition artificial, but it is a valid first step to recovery.

It is never easy to repair relationships. There are times when it isn’t necessary, because you will never encounter that person again. There are other times when you must move yourself into pretend mode as you will consistently encounter this person. Although it is uncomfortable to pretend, at least pretence, unlike avoidance or dismissal, gets you to a place where you can attempt to repair the relationship.

Meetings and your Difficult Person/Bully

Monday, March 14th, 2011

If you are attending a meeting this week, and your difficult person (or bully) is attending, make a point to sit BESIDE her, not across the table from her.

When you position yourself across the table you are placing yourself in a potentially adversarial position.  By putting yourself beside your difficult person you are in a position of equality, not competition.

This way you don’t even have to guess if she is talking about you. You know she isn’t, nor can she (you are much too close)! This will take some of the pressure off you (believe it or not), and hopefully you’ll be able to concentrate on your job more.

I survived

Monday, January 24th, 2011

You will survive

I’ve watched the TLC program I Survived a few times lately. Amazing stories of survival, amazing people in life-threatening situations.

People can survive the most amazing things. As I watch the show, I am amazed at people’s will to survive, their will to overcome, their determination to not let their attacker (whether that be another person, an animal or nature) take them down.

At the end of the show, they always explain how they survived. Sometimes it is their faith, sometimes it is their children and sometimes it is simply in their nature to fight against what is trying to end their life.

How much will do you have to “survive” at work? How much determination, how much perseverance and how much desire do you have to survive the things that get thrown at you professionally?

We’ve all had to deal with difficult people at work. We often work with people we don’t like and sometimes we work with people who don’t like us. Whether it is jealousy, insecurity or personality differences, there are people in the workplace who take the fun out of our jobs.

Statistically, two out of three adults do not like their jobs. We stay in jobs we don’t love because we need the money, we need the benefits or it suits our lifestyle. We sometimes leave jobs we do love because of the people. (Fifty-four million Americans have been bullied at work.)

Sometimes we feel trapped and are unable to leave our job—perhaps due to the economy or other factors. We may be unable to find comparable employment elsewhere.

Very few people feel that if they lost their current job, they would be able to get similar employment at the same salary. Is that you? Do you feel trapped in your current role or company? Are you in a situation in which you feel you need to survive?

So how can you do it? How can you make your will to endure stronger than that of the bully? How can you continue to work in a job where the people make your life miserable? How can you go to work each day where you are treated without respect? How can you survive?

1.     Don’t Give Up. In I Survived, the common element of all the stories is the focus on survival. The people never give up. They refuse to let their circumstances get the better of them.

  • So maybe we need to focus on surviving whatever crisis we are in. Maybe we are keeping the job we don’t love because we need the benefits for right now. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It is just for right now. We often tend to look too far into the future and say, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” Okay, so let’s not worry about the rest of your life, and say “I can do this for this week,” and so on.

2.     Stay in Control. When you let others control you, you’re writing your own death sentence. You need to continue to make the choices that keep you in control.

  • Each situation in life presents you with choices. You can choose to accept that this is the way things are, you can choose to give up (see #1), you can leave the situation, or you can choose to change the situation.
  • Accepting it means it no longer causes you stress; you emotionally detach yourself from the situation. You stop caring. Once you have disengaged emotionally from the situation, it no longer has control over you. That’s easy to say, but hard to do.
  • You can leave the situation. Leave the job, leave the relationship. It will likely come at a cost to you, but once you have decided that you’re willing to pay the cost, you can be in control. You survived by leaving the job, relationship or situation.
  • You can change the situation. Create a strategy (see #4) wherein you can continue to keep your job and still be in control.

3.     Don’t Become a Victim. Maybe the person has the authority to fire you, to ruin your reputation or to make your life much, much worse than it is now. That doesn’t mean you need to be their victim. Don’t allow your difficult person that much space in your life. Refuse to become their victim. Be aware of what they can or cannot do, but stop yourself from the negativity that becoming a victim perpetuates.

4.     Change the situation. Create a strategy that will allow you to keep your job, keep your sanity and allow you to survive the situation. Plan your actions one day at a time (one hour at a time if appropriate). Let your strategy be your secret weapon to survival.

As I watch I Survived I am riveted to the television, wondering how on earth the person was able to overcome his experiences. I am sure that during his ordeal he also wondered how he was going to survive, but because he wanted to or needed to, he was able to overcome what seemed like insurmountable odds.

I hope you are thinking that this information doesn’t apply to you. I am hoping you will never need to go back into the archives to read about survival strategies.

But if this article is speaking directly to you, keep the faith that in the end, you too will survive.

Keep on-the-right-track with your fight and be a survivor, too.

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).

Email + Difficult Person = Trouble!

Monday, December 13th, 2010

“Can you read this over to make sure it sounds okay?”  We’ve done that haven’t we?  Don’t.

If there is tension in a relationship, the desire to turn to email is overwhelming.  i realize that we want a paper trail, we want to avoid our difficult person, and we want to ensure that we are not part of the problem.

The problem is email itself.  You may have written an email that sounds perfect to you, but you aren’t the other person!  If there is a way to read it the wrong way, that is pretty much what is going to happen.

The tension in your relationship is causing the person to read your email with a “tone” of voice that you potentially weren’t intending to put in the message.  They heard it anyway.  It isn’t about right or wrong, it is about perception.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

If you can, go over and speak to your difficult person. be prepared and stick to your “script”.  Follow up the meeting with an email summary, but don’t have the conversation on email.

If a live conversation is just too much to expect, then have the conversation over the telephone.  Worst case scenario, call their voice mail and leave the message.

Email is guaranteed to make it worse.

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!

What is a bully?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Dear Rhonda:  I’m working with someone I think is a bully.  She is mean (like in the movie Mean Girls), she makes fun of me in front of others, and I feel like crying when she comes my way.  My co-workers tell me it is just a personality clash, but I think it is worse.  What is the difference?

Signed, “Back to Grade Three

Dear “Back to Grade Three

There is a difference between a personality clash and a bully, and it is important to look objectively at the situation to ensure it really is a bully you are dealing with.  Your approach to a bully requires a little more strategy than a simple confrontation.

Statistically 62% of employers ignore signs and complaints of bullying, stating they are personality issues and they don’t want  to get involved (Zogby study).  That number is far too high, so it is important that before you complain to HR or management, that you’ve done your homework as well.  If you are really dealing with a bully, lets be sure we do what we need to do so our company cannot dismiss it.

Personality clashes are communication style differences.  One person will be very direct, one will be passive.  One person is comfortable with confrontation, one is not.  One person likes attention, and one does not.  Personality differences are often frustrating, but they do not fall into the definition of bullying.  It is perfectly normal to have confrontations based on personality differences, and normally the company doesn’t need to get involved. The company does need to get involved with a bully.

A bully is:

What is a bully?

What is a bully?

–       unfair, humiliating, malicious and vindictive

–       someone who intends to harm the victim

–       is persistent, prolonged and happens over a period of time (and escalates)

–       will likely challenge your physical or mental health, safety and well-being

–       has the power to bully, whether that is real, perceived or sanctioned

Clearly it is more than just being different. The intent to harm is the major difference from my perspective.  What does the bully get from bullying you?  What is their payoff?  Are they trying to cause you harm (professionally, emotionally, or even physically)?  Why?

ON THE RIGHT TRACK has recently developed a brand new webinar that will help anyone in your situation deal with the bully at work:

Beat the Bully!  Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK with strategies to deal with bullying in the workplace. December 9, 2010.  Only $99 per dial in line.  Stay tuned for more details!

To Register: email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register me for Beat the Bully”.  She will send you the webinar details, executive overview and invoice to you at that time.

For More Information, or to bring the workshop to you company:  Call toll free at 1877-213-8608 or email Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com for more information.

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.

Are you venting or solution oriented?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Many times we are more focused on the “Confrontation” than we are the solution.  Do you mistake a confrontation for a vent session?  Do you go into your confrontation (or conversation) with a solution in mind, or are you just trying to vent with your difficult person?

Lets assume the issue is your coworker who is constantly asking you to “cover” for them while they are away from the office.  You’ve done this in the past, but are now uncomfortable with this arrangement and want it to stop. You’ve spoke to your coworker before and told her that you don’t want to continue.  She says OK, but is still disappearing, leaving you to make up excuses or explanations.

You’ve had enough and won’t cover for her anymore as she has pushed you one time to many.  When you approach her to discuss the situation, are you planning on venting on how unprofessional, how unfair she is being to you?  Do you want to explain all the reasons that you shouldn’t be covering for her?  Are you focused on any solution at all?

Instead of venting (although I realize you want to do this), stay focused on the solution – or end result you want.  Tell her that you are uncomfortable (explanation and venting are two different things), and that in the future you will not make excuses, you will simply say you  have no idea where your coworker is.

The solution is where you should be focused, not the venting.  The venting will create more tension, more frustration and no solution.

Keep focused – it will be worth it!

Our next webinar is June 15th on Dealing with Difficult People.

Unlimited attendance (per line) for only $99, and it comes with 30 days of free coaching.

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

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!

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.

Avoidance

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Morgan is putting in our pool in our Florida vacation home.  He is a great guy, fun to chat with, does fantastic work, but he is very difficult to deal with because he is an avoider.

Morgan hates conflict, so he tells you what he thinks you want to hear, which isn’t always the truth.

Avoider

We’ve been having a major problem with final delivery date of the pool.  It was due weeks ago, and the pool is still not done.  Morgan won’t tell us exactly why (although we clearly see that his time management is the issue); instead he avoids the question.  When asked when we can see a completed pool, he will give me a date (like, “next Tuesday”), but when Tuesday arrives, he says, “Well, maybe Thursday.”

Avoider

He avoids saying the truth because he knows that I will be upset.  He avoids facing the issue because he is uncomfortable with confrontation.  He does everything he can to keep the waters calm, to keep me happy and to avoid talking about the why it is late and when it will be ready.

Initially it was very difficult to get angry with him because he was such a nice guy.  After missing the deadline by weeks, it was easier to be angry.

He doesn’t return phone calls.  He doesn’t tell the truth.  He doesn’t want to deal with the situation, which makes him a very difficult person in my eyes.

Is his behaviour intentional?  Partially.  I think he is deliberately not returning my calls because he doesn’t want to discuss the fact the pool is still not done.  When we see him in person, he changes the subject, dances around the issue, and avoids commitment.  Is that deliberate or innocent?  A bit of both.  He has “learned” to avoid conflict and he does it without realizing he is doing it.

The bad news is that there is no easy fix. I can’t force him to tell me the truth or return my phone calls.  What I can do is be very clear on what I want, without making it seem too confrontational.  I can call him every day, or every hour until he finally returns my call.  I can ask him to promise me it will be done.

But I can’t always win.  I can’t always get the truth, and I’m still not getting my pool delivered on time.

I can choose to never work with him again once the pool is finished though.  In a workplace, that isn’t so easy.  The best you can do is be aware you are dealing with an avoider, and be very clear on expectations.  You’ll still suffer from frustration, and they will still avoid uncomfortable situations and commitments.

Not everything that is faced can be easily changed, but by not facing an issue is guaranteeing that it won’t change.  Better to do something than nothing at all.

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.

Dealing with Negativity

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I am nonegativityt a negative person by nature and find that negativity seems to knock the wind out of my sails.

There are several approaches to dealing with negativity, and while none of them are easy, they are simple to do without compromising your credibility at work.

I’ll share my favourite approach today.  Try to do this for the next 30 days.  It won’t be easy.

Turn every negative statement they say into a positive one.

Them: “It’s too cold outside”
You: “I love my sweater and I can’t wear it in the summer.  The cold allows me to wear it and I like that”

Them: “This company takes advantage of us all the time”
You: “I’m glad I have a job”

Them: “Bob the Boss is such a jerk don’t you think?”
You: “I’ve heard horror stories, so put into perspective,  I can deal with Bob”

You don’t actually have to believe what you are saying; you just have to say the positive version of what your difficult person is saying.  You may think that Bob the Boss is a jerk too, but if you agree with their negativity, you are actually encouraging them to be negative more often.

You must be 100% consistent with this approach though.  Always take their negativity and make it positive.  This will exhaust you. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

This won’t make them a positive person.  It just makes them take their negativity elsewhere.

That’s OK with me :-)

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

Sometimes NOT giving in is right!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

The guy who cuts our grass is someone I would easily call a difficult person.  He is strongly opinionated.  He is right and anyone who even considers a different opinion is not only wrong, they are stupid.

That type of person is infuriating.  I sometimes feel it is my responsibility to get them to at least acknowledge a different point of view.  This is not smart on my part :-)

I listened to Alan yesterday.  Actually, I heard what he said, but I refused to be baited by his urge to get into a political discussion with me.  I wanted to get into this conversation; I wanted to get him to listen to what I had to say; I wanted him to see a potentially different, and not necessarily wrong, viewpoint.

I didn’t though, which was completely the right thing to do. I smiled and didn’t say too much. I refused to get baited, I refused to fight back.  Fighting is exactly what Alan wanted me to do.  He wanted to prove how smart he was.  By refusing to argue, I didn’t give him what he wanted.  He was well aware that I didn’t agree with him, but I wouldn’t rise to the bait.

He left the discussion a little frustrated, and I left it incredibly proud of me.

That is hard to do day in and day out when you work with your difficult person.  It is hard not to get baited, it is hard not to give your difficult person the response they are looking for.  Don’t give in to this style of difficult person.  Even if every second time you meet with them that you can hold yourself back it will be worth it.

I was proud of myself for not getting into a no-win argument. I was equally pleased that I had frustrated Alan.  Mature?  Maybe not.  The right thing to do?  Absolutely!

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)

Would a little compassion help?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Is your person just difficult, or are they operating in fear mode? We are in a fear-based economy and health crises right now, and people are flat out afraid of the unknown.

What if H1N1 hits my family? What if my investments are worth nothing when I retire? What if Iose my job? What if my health care isn’t as good as I have now?

If you are working in any of those fear-based industries, you are probably dealing with a lot of difficult clients right now. Makes sense doesn’t it? Fear makes people act without thinking.

Empathy and compassion will go a long way. Put yourself in their shoes. They don’t have the information that you have, and they are in panic mode.

Does that help you keep your calm demeanor and not get as riled up about their poor behaviour?

I thought so. The next time one of your clients is demanding, unreasonable, and operating in an unprofessional manner, put yourself in their shoes. It doesn’t change that they are in the wrong, but you’ll be amazed at how your viewpoint changes and you are in a better position to deal with their behaviour.

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

Our next webinar, Confrontation Skills, is on October 28that 2:00pm EDT.

Sign up at http://dealingwithdifficultpeople.org/register.php today!

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.

I would be more effective working with you if…..?

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

If I asked you the question, “I would be more effective work with “X” if…. (fill in the blank)”, how would you finish that question?

I would be more effective working with Rhonda if she worked somewhere else?

I would be more effective working with Mike if he had a better attitude, listened to what I was saying, didn’t go over my head at work etc etc?

That is a natural way to answer that question, but if you look at what you’ve said, you are asking your difficult person to change their behaviour.

That is not going to happen.

Every morning they get up and answer the above question about you:

I would be more effective working with Susan if she just left me alone!

You can’t make your difficult person change. What you can do is do something different so you get a different response/reaction from them.

Dealing with your difficult person isn’t about getting others to do what you want them to do (that makes you a difficult person). Dealing with difficult people is about learning to create the circumstances where you get what you need.

You don’t make another person be more positive, to listen better or arrive at work on time. You learn to create the circumstances where you are able to get what you need.

I would be more effective working with Rhonda if I didn’t let her complaining bother me.

I would be more effective working with John if I had more compassion for his personal life.

Not easy is it?

Have you ever heard the expression “If you marry your spouse planning to change them after the wedding, it makes for a very interesting first marriage”?

You can’t make people do what you want. They can’t make you do what they want.

You learn to adapt to the circumstances to get what you need (and not necessarily at the expense of the other person either).

You can learn more tips and solutions at our upcoming Webinar.

September 15th, 2pm EST is our new launch of Dealing with Difficult People Webinars.

Register by sending an email to Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Only $99! Register today!

How do you respond to inappropriate statements?

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Congressman Barney Frank (Mass) became a bit of a celebrity this week by answering what many would consider an inappropriate question with an attack back: “Mam, what planet do you spend most of your time on?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYlZiWK2Iy8

While it made for an entertaining news clip, it was not the correct way to handle this lady. He followed it up by saying “Having a conversation with you is like having a conversation with the dining room table, and I have no interest. Again, he blew it. He looks immature, irresponsible and completely unprofessional.

It is tempting to resort to sarcastic low blows, to embarrass or fight back, but in a professional environment, you risk your own reputation and credibility by doing so. If you watch the above clip, he looks like the difficult person at the end of it, and I almost felt sorry for the woman.

Don’t do this regardless of how tempting it is.

Mr. Frank should have taken the “camouflage” technique to deal with this woman. To camouflage means to disguise the question/statement. I describe it as being deliberately naive when responding to it.

What should have happened:

Lady: “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy…

Mr. Frank: “I support this policy because….”

He should have deliberately left out the Nazi comment and continued.

This way the situation would not have escalated the way it did.

If we want to “take the high road” and we want to appear as the professional in any situation, we have to strategize our approach. Refuse to be baited by your difficult person, or difficult situations.

I bet that later that evening Mr. Frank regretted how he handled this woman. I also bet that if he had used the camouflage technique he would have been proud of himself.

Are YOU the problem?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Yesterday, I received an email from Sue that made me chuckle. She realized that she was the difficult person at work.

I laughed and advised Sue not to worry, as we are all someone’s difficult person.

Whoever you have labeled your difficult person has likely labeled you as their difficult person.

Why? Because at the moment, your difficult person is blocking you from getting what you want. You react to their negativity, their laziness … whatever it is they are doing that bothers you. You do everything you can to make them stop this behaviour.

For instance, lets say your difficult person is chronically negative. Every day they complain about something (the weather, the economy, the boss etc). You don’t like this and try to change your difficult person into a more positive person. So, they say “I can’t believe its raining again! I’m going to start building the ark.” You are annoyed that they let the weather bother them, so your response (to be positive) is “I love summer rain. It makes everything so green and lush and everything smells so nice. How can you complain about something so beautiful?” … and you put a big smile on your face.

Your difficult person (because they are chronically negative) labels you as difficult because you constantly disagree with them (they see you as someone who is telling them they are always wrong).

Naturally, they don’t like this behaviour and therefore label you as difficult.

If you don’t want to be difficult, then stop letting their behaviour bother you, and stop getting in their way!

Not so easy is it?

You need to do something different in order to get your needs filled. Don’t fall into the trap that if you are stronger than they are, you will win. You might – and you might not, but either way, you are being difficult.

I assume that you don’t want to be difficult (I certainly don’t), so start evaluating how you are hurting your own efforts and start taking some creative (and different) approaches to getting your difficult person to change.

If you are at the point that you need to have a conversation or a confrontation with your difficult person, you may want to attend our next teleseminar. Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 2:00pm EST is the start time for this one hour session.

$99 – unlimited attendance
Toll free phone number provided
MP3 recording of session for continued learning
30 days email coaching provided to all participants
60 minutes of your time

Email Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com with “Reserve Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.

Can you detach?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Do you take the actions of your difficult person personally?  Do you think that they sit at home at night and plot how to ruin your next day?  Do you feel that they have it in for you (and are trying to get you fired, look bad or worse)?  Of course you do.

One of the best things that you can do when dealing with your difficult person is to detach from the situation.  You have become emotionally involved and it is affecting your ability to deal with them.

OK, maybe they do have something against you.  Maybe they really are trying to get you fired, and maybe it is about you.  Realistically that rarely happens and it really isn’t about you (perhaps your position, your name, your status), but it doesn’t feel that way, so we take everything personally and get emotionally involved.  Admit it, you have lain awake at night trying to figure out why they do this to you right?

Here’s a few quick tips on how to detach from this situation:

–    Realize that they would behave this way to someone.  Remember – they act this way because there is a payoff for them. There is a reason.  The payoff for their behaviour is such that they will act like this with someone – it just happens to be you

–    Place a barrier between you and your difficult person.  Imagine it is an invisible shield that you put up whenever they enter the room, or whenever their name is brought into conversation.  Protect yourself from taking it personally

–    Watch how they treat others, and realize they do this to others as well (it is not just you)

–    Play a game with yourself.  Predict what their response, or action will be, and if you are correct, offer yourself a reward. For example, every time they speak in a condescending tone to you, you can stop at Dairy Queen.  Once it becomes a game to you, you almost look forward to their bad behaviour as you get a reward

–    Practice ‘letting go’ of your emotional reaction with them

I realize it is all easier than it sounds, but in order for you to deal with your difficult person professionally, respectfully and consistently, you will need to become detached.

Go ahead, practice, and start counting points for your team!

Our next teleseminar on “Confrontation Skills” will be held on August 29th at 2pm EST. Register today at www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org/webinar/

What are your triggers?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I admit it; condescension is one of my triggers.  I know that as soon as I “hear” condescension in someone else’s voice, I trigger a response.  That response is typically negative, potentially confrontational, and often unprofessional.

Our difficult people know where our triggers are, and you can be sure that they enjoy pushing them just to get a reaction from us.

Take this week to recognize what pushes your buttons, and what causes a negative reaction from you.  The more you are aware that these are potential danger spots, the more likely you are to avoid reacting negatively when they are pushed.

Pay close attention to your difficult person.  Where are your triggers with them?

The more in control you are, the easier it is to deal with your difficult person.

Wednesday July 29, 2009 at 2pm EST is our next teleseminar on Dealing with Difficult People.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance per line.

Find more details at: www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org

To register email:  Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com with “Reserve Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

This is just about you

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Don’t bring others into your confrontations/conversations.  It doesn’t matter that you aren’t the only one who feels this way, or that others agree with you.

Confrontation (and conversations about difficult situations) are between you and your difficult person only.

If you say “Julie feels the same way” then you have guaranteed to derail the conversation to no longer be about the issue, but about that Julie and others feel that way as well.  Your difficult person will become fixated on Julie and others instead of the issue at hand.

Besides, you have potentially created a disaster for Julie as well.

Learn to deal professionally with your difficult person at our next teleseminar on July 29th at 2pm EDT.  Only one hour for $99 which includes unlimited attendance (per line), an executive overview prior to the session, 30 days of no cost coaching, support and advice, a toll free number and a recording of your session.

Sign up today at http://dealingwithdifficultpeople.org/register.php or email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with Register Me in the subject line.

Keep on-the-right-track this week!

Scars last forever

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Forgive; sounds good

Forget; I don’t think I could

They say time heals everything, I’m still waiting.

Those are the lyrics to one of my favourite songs by the Dixie Chicks, and they directly apply to dealing with difficult people.

If you have someone who truly is a diffiult person, and if you have one of those “dreaded” confrontations, there is likely to be some type of scar.  Perhaps it will scare you away from confrontation in the future, perhaps it will make you jump faster when someone crosses the line the next time.  Whatever the result, dealing with difficult people and confrontations will leave it’s mark on you.

Make sure you are prepared before you have your confrontation.  Make sure you are prepared before you say anything.  This means to plan what you are going to say instead of relying on your instinct to say the right thing (that is not likely to happen).  Make an appointment, schedule a time to talk, but avoid saying what is on your mind as it is happening (bite your tongue!).

You may be able to forgive, you may not be able to forget, but it is up to you what you say, how you say it, and when you say it.  Take control so that you can heal from the situation.

If you need to learn exactly what to say, how to say it and when to say it, perhaps you need to attend next weeks teleseminar on Confrontation Skills.

Monday June 22, 2009 @ 2pm EDT (Toronto, NYC time zone)
60 minutes
Executive Overview sent prior to session
MP3 download for continued learning
30 days free coaching to ensure you are on-the-right-track to success!

Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance).

Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com or go directly to
http://dealingwithdifficultpeople.org/register.php
Looking forward to helping you minimize your scars.

Is there a lot of conflict in your office?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

According to Your Workplace magazine (June 2009) in a study of 5,00 full-time employees in Europe and the Americas found that only 12% of them had received formal training in conflict management.

The three work sectors where frequent conflict is most common is government (42.7%), eduation (41.8%) and not-for-profit (41.3%)

What are you doing to ensure you are part of the solution and not part of the problem?

Are you reading these weekly tips and then not doing anything with them?  When was the last time you actively ensured that you were resolving conflict and not just ignoring it?

Ensure you are ON THE RIGHT TRACK to conflict resolution!  Build your skills by re-reading some of our past tips, have a look in the mirror and truly reflect on what you’ve been doing to fix the problem, and register for our next session!

If you want to ensure that you are helping and not hurting, be sure to attend out next Confrontation Skills teleseminar.

Date:  Monday, June 22, 2009

Time:  2:00 pm EDT (NYC and Toronto time)

Length:  60 minutes

Cost: Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

You will receive a toll free phone number and dial in instructions along with an Executive Overview to follow along with.  There will be a Q&A session, as well each attendee will receive 30 days of complimentary consulting to help you deal individually with your difficult person and confrontation skills.  Finally you will receive an MP3 download of the session for continued (and shared) learning.

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

Dealing with a Sniper

Monday, May 25th, 2009

We’ve all been on the receiving end of an inappropriate comment in a public setting.  Your co-worker embarrasses you with a snide remark meant to be funny, but you weren’t laughing.  They are a sniper – and just like the name implies, you were the victim of a sniper attack.

We want to fight back, we want to say something equally as hurtful, and hopefully deflect the humour from you to someone else.  It isn’t funny when it happens to you, and a funny response is not the correct approach to take.

Say nothing.  Make sure you make eye contact that lasts about three seconds too long.  You know “the look” that tells your sniper you heard the comment, and you choose not to respond do it.

Don’t smile, don’t laugh, don’t look for support from others.  Just “look

You’ll walk away knowing that you were on-the-right-track and didn’t stoop to their level.

Our next Dealing with Difficult People teleseminar is scheduled for May 26 2009 at 2pm EDT (New York/Toronto time zone).  Only $99 and you and all your coworkers can listen in together for one low price.  Everyone in attendance gets 30 days free coaching as well as an MP3 download of the session for continued learning.  Only 1 hour of your time and you’ll be feeling much better about Dealing with your Difficult Person.

Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com to register, with “Reserve Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.  She will send you the dial in information and invoice for Tuesday’s session.

For more information, or to register and pay directly, go to http://www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org

Patience

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Stop fooling yourself in thinking that you just need to do or say just one little thing and then BAM! everything will be better.

It won’t.

It takes a strategy and a planned course of action to deal with your difficult person.  It isn’t just one thing, it is a series of things that you do, and things that you say.  What works today, may not work tomorrow – what will you do then?

Don’t give up –  have many steps on your strategy and don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t immediately fix your problem.

Compromise

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Our final style of conflict management is “Compromise.”  If you missed last week’s summary for “Obliging” be sure to to take a look at that post.

The final style has an equal balance for “Concern for Self” with “Concern for Others.”  As you can tell by it’s name, it is about compromise.  Keep in mind that BOTH sides must be willing to compromise (which isn’t always the case is it?)

This style is powerful when both sides are right, and very dangerous when one side is wrong (what message would compromise send to the side that is wrong?)  If there is a balance of power it is effective and if both sides are willing to give something up.  This is very popular in politics, negotiations between union and management as well as departmentally.

The danger for most of us is when we think we are compromising but the other party isn’t compromising.  We end up giving in (see last week’s message).

Make sure that if you are willing to compromise that your partner is equally concerned with solving the issue amicably.

Are you actually compromising or are you giving in to someone who isn’t giving back?

Obliging

Monday, April 20th, 2009

We continue our discussion of conflict management styles with the fourth of five different options.  Last week we discussed “Avoiding” and when and how we should be taking that style as our choice. 

This week we discuss “Obliging” which sounds exactly the way it is.  This style is about giving in to others.  It places a very high value on others and a very low value on you.  You can imagine that this would not be a good conflict management style in every situation, as you would always be giving in to the other person.  A very frustrating way to operate I’m sure.

Obliging or placating implies that you are giving up something important.  This is used when you need to preserve relationships, such as in your personal life.  Your spouse may love eating sushi, and you may hate it. That means that sometimes you go to a sushi place anyway.  In the workplace you may choose the obliging style if you have made a mistake and want to offer amends.  Perhaps you lost your temper with a co-worker or said something you regret.

You are going to give more than you are going to get.  It may calm the waters in your relationship, it may show that you are flexible and it also may show goodwill.  If you always take this style of conflict management, it may show that you are afraid of conflict, are too passive, or are a wimp.

So, are you using this style strategically, or because you don’t know how to handle conflict?

Avoiding

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Last week we visited the second of five styles of conflict management – Dominating.  This week, we move to a style that is practiced by many, and sadly, not usually very effectively: “Avoiding.”

The “don’t rock the boat” style of conflict management relies on others to handle the situation as the person (you) tend to just withdraw or disappear. Are you practicing a strategic style of conflict management, or are you avoiding conflict?  There is a distinct difference between the two styles of avoidance.

There are times when avoiding the issue is the correct choice.  Perhaps it is during board meeting where others are present.  Perhaps your anger has spilled over and you will not be able to be professional. However, you have only 24 hours to have a planned confrontation or discussion with this person.  You choose to avoid so that you can walk away to get prepared, calm down and to stay professional.  If you decide that it just isn’t worth having that follow up conversation, you’ve not dealt with the situation at all.  Actually, you’ve done the opposite and taught your difficult person that their behaviour was acceptable because you did nothing about it.  Behaviour unconfronted will not change.

If used strategically, the avoiding style of conflict management allows you to buy time for a cooling off period.  It allows us to plan our comments to a better place or a better time.

As stated above, very few people actually follow through within 24 hours and address the situation. If something has happened at work, chose to walk away (avoid) but don’t allow yourself to avoid the situation entirely by not having a follow up discussion about what happened.

This week we will go into further details of all five styles of conflict management as well as additional information as our next delivery of our teleseminar “Confrontation Skills” will be held.

Dominating

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Last week we visited the first of the five styles of conflict management (Collaborating). This week, we change the parameters for our end goal and discuss “Dominating.”

For many of us we naturally default to the dominating style of conflict management when frustrated.  I push and you push back.  Unfortunately, it is rarely the correct response.

When the concern for self is high and concern for others is low, dominating can be the correct choice.  As you can imagine, this isn’t the case professionally very often (I hope your concern for others in the workplace is not low).  This is the bully approach, and should be used sparingly, and only when you have the authority.  This is often perceived as an “old” style of management.  Intimidation, bully and bossy.  Not the words I want used to describe me.

However, in high cost (such as life and legality) situations as well as parenting style situations, this can be used.  Use it when you don’t have the time (panic) to explain, but will explain later, once the “emergency” is over.

Be careful that this not your default setting (otherwise your staff will be attending my sessions to find out how to deal with you!).

Collaborating

Monday, March 30th, 2009

There are five styles of conflict management.  Each has its own purpose and reason for choosing it.

This week we are going to focus on the “Collaborating” style of conflict management.  This style is high on the “concern for self” scale and also high on the “concern for others” scale.

Collaborating is a win/win style of conflict managment where each side of the issue is willing to “seek an exchange of information and to reach an acceptable solution to everyone.”  Clearly this is the “friendly” style of conflict.

This style is not effective when one party lacks commitment or your time is limited. It works best in “Stage 1” of conflict (see previous messages for definition of different stages http://www.on-the-right-track.com/ddp_newsletter/newsletter_archives_issue.php?id=337

To use this style you are probably dealing with departmental issues, your family and basic problem solving.

Compromise

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Are you willing to compromise?  When you are dealing with your difficult person, your back is probably against the wall and you are angry and frustrated.  Are you flexible at all, or have you dug in your heels and become just as difficult (if not more so) than the person you are dealing with?  Is it all your way, or no way?

We must be willing to compromise.  This doesn’t mean you must give in, nor does it mean we must dominate the situation either.  Negotiation, flexibility and compromise is probably what is in order to move your discussion/situation to the next level.

Must you always give in?  No.  But pushing back and dominating will likely make your situation worse, not better.  Be sure to pick your battles and be willing to compromise or even walk away on some situations.

Strategy

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Take your time. Strategize.  Don’t rush into dealing with your difficult person.  You are probably really great at figuring out what to do at 2:00am (I certainly am!), so take the time to figure out what the “right” answer is rather than the quick answer.

You won’t regret it!

Pick your Battles

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Are you sure you have the energy to “fix” your difficult person?  Most people decide to deal with their difficult person the same way they decide to get in shape – and go way overboard!  Have you ever decided today was the day you were going to get in shape and went out and ran 10 miles?  Or planned to go to the gym seven days this week?  Exactly what we shouldn’t be doing with our difficult person.

Choose one issue you want to deal with, and deal with that one only.  Leave the others on the side for a while.  Don’t try to attack everything about them – there are consequences.

And remember, you still have to deal with them the next day.  To remind you of that important message, read a past article about “After the Confrontation” here www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org/article.php?id=74

Focus

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

When dealing with your difficult person, or in the middle of a confrontation, always give the other person your 100% focus… even if you are on the telephone or the other cannot see you. 

Avoid looking at your watch or notes, avoid responding to email or smiling/waving at anyone else walking by.  Often the reason we distract ourselves is to detach from the situation or emotion of the moment.  Keep your focus.  Whenever you switch your focus you are telling your difficult person that you are also difficult and are unintentionally (or intentionally?) pushing their buttons even more.

Volume

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Keep you voice volume low.  You don’t want to appear as if you are angry or shouting when having a confrontation or dealing with difficult person, so keep it low…. and a little too low is perfectly acceptable.

When your voice is quite low, people actually listen more closely.  Use this to your advantage and be sure that you aren’t yelling, speaking in a louder than normal voice, or even the voice that has the “edge” to it.  Speak very softly.

It works!

Challenges

Monday, February 16th, 2009

For the past several weeks we’ve been discussing the different stages of conflict and what to do in each stage.  The second (and most critical stage) is “More Significant Challenges.”  As we know from previous tips, there are important steps to follow at each stage.  For this stage, it is important that you do have a conversation or confrontation about this issue (before it becomes a stage three issue).

This stage of conflict is all about competition.  Someone feels the need to win (well, you both do actually) and that winning seems to imply that someone should lose (which doesn’t necessarily need to happen).  Control, saving face or reputation is important and participants certainly participate in the CYA approach to conflict – which means a lot of the talking happens on email (don’t use email PLEASE!).  This level is hostile, but typically not dangerous (until it starts to progress to level three).

Solutions?  Say something.  Keep it black and white, focused on one issue and don’t bring others into it.  Stay away from sarcasm, public jabs or responses. Make an appointment with your difficult person to see if you can find that middle ground.  Be sure to read some of other tips already published on what to do, or (better yet), attend our next teleseminar on Confrontation Skills on April 16th, at 2:00pm EST.  Only $99 per dial in line (where can you buy such inexpensive and good training?).

Everyday Concerns

Monday, February 9th, 2009

As mentioned in our last tip, http://www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org, there are three stages of conflict in any difficult relationship.  The first stage is called “Everyday Concerns and Disputes” (or Stage 1).  This stages covers those day-to-day irritations that we all experience.  For the most part, we ignore them.  However, they could contine to build  and create tension and potentially escalate to Stage 2 or 3 with time.

To avoid having these simple Stage 1 annoyances create a bigger problem down the road, a well-timed comment or request is often all that is needed.  If it bothers  you that someone in the office is constantly leaving the kitchen a mess, perhaps all that is required is a note in the kitchen, a comment at a meeting, or a conversation with the person responsible for the mess.  A conversation is much easier than a confrontation.

Don’t address every annoyance, but those that you see starting to “get on that one nerve” left.  Deal with it early and hopefully you won’t need a confrontation in the future.

The Fight!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

There are three stages of conflict in any difficult relationship.  The final stage is known as “The Fight is On!” (or Stage 3).  If you, or your difficult person, perceives your conflict to be in the final stage, it is important to realize that a calm, cool and logical discussion will not work.  The other person (or you) are far too emotional to participate in a calm, cool and logical manner.  Intervention, arbitration or an impartial third person will be required.

Don’t hesitate to suggest that a third person join your discussion.  If you are truly interested in getting through this conflict, it is necessary to have that impartial voice in the conversation.  Keep your job, keep your relationships and keep your reputation and invite someone if that is needed.  Don’t let pride or stubbornness get in the way.

Action

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Make 2009 your year for action.  Stop complaining about your difficult person or you difficult situation and do something about it!

The problem that many of us face is the “fear” of what will happen/not happen.  I can assure you that if you don’t do anything, nothing will change (it might even begin to get worse) and you will continue to be frustrated by the situation.  Complaining about it does NOT make it go away – you must take ACTION!

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got (and you’ve already identified that this isn’t working for you!)… so do something!  Take action.  Make a plan, and get ON-THE-RIGHT-TRACK by dealing with your difficult person.

Solution

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Begin with the end in mind.  If you are going to have a conversation or confrontation with your difficult person about what the problem is, you had better enter this discussion with a solution in mind.

You will get nowhere if you just vent your frustrations.  You MUST have a solution in mind to the problem.  This does not ensure you will get your desired solution, however, just venting your frustration or anger is guaranteed to backfire.

As “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” teaches us, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Have your solution prepared. Know what you want and be able to clearly identify that to your difficult person.

Just saying “You are constantly interrupting me” is not a solution.  Asking them to stop interrupting you is a solution.

Shake it Up

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.  So this week, do something completely different!

Try “the look” without making any comment.  Perhaps completely ignoring the comment or the situation is what is in order.  Or, for those of you that do typically avoid any confrontation with your difficult person, maybe you just need to say “I don’t agree with you” or something do that isn’t avoidance. (rolling your eyes does not count!)

I won’t guarantee that this will make your difficult person less difficult.  I can guarantee that it will confuse them.

Don’t expect things to get better by doing the same thing over and over again.

Who?

Monday, December 15th, 2008

According to the dictionary, difficult people are those people who continually and chronically get in your way of you doing your job and living your life effectively.

Statistically, this is only 2% of the population.

Are you really dealing with a difficult person, or is it just conflict?  Conflict is tension in a relationship.  It isn’t quite the same as working with a difficult person.

Identify your person accurately.  If they really are difficult, then you must be 100% consistent with your approaches.  If it is conflict, there are times when everything appears fine, and you can relax a little more.

There is a big difference between the two – be sure you have labelled them correctly, and then take the appropriate approach.

Keep your Cool!

Monday, December 8th, 2008

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.

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.

For my Canadian readers, our current political confusion has been ruled primarily by emotions.  Need I say more? 

Be professional, take time out, stay focused and keep your cool.

Ugh!

Monday, December 1st, 2008

It will get worse

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.

Sniper Attacks

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Sniper attacks are those public displays disguided as “I was just joking” attacks that hurt.  Typically they happen in very public places (like office meetings) where the goal is to embarrass you in front of your peers.

“Ooohhhh, Rhonda is all dressed up today.  Are you leaving us Rhonda, do you have a job interview?”

On the outside, these attacks are meant to be funny, but you know that they are designed to embarrass you.  How do you react?

It is tempting (and very easy) to snipe back.  Don’t.  It is tempting to laugh it off. Don’t.  It is tempting to try to be funny back and embarrass them.  Don’t.

Calmly make eye contact, address the sniper and the comment.

“Actually, this is a new suit.  Glad you like it.”

Keep the sarcasm out of your voice.

Don’t fight difficult behaviour with difficult behaviour.  You look more childish, and less professional when you fight back in these public situations.

Change

Monday, November 10th, 2008

You’ve all heard the expression “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”

.. so DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

If every morning you wake up and hope that your difficult person is going to “get it” today, you aren’t doing anything different.

Try a new behavior pattern (something different) three times. If it is working (ie they are not being so difficult) then keep on taking that approach until it isn’t working anymore!  If you are not getting what you want after you’ve tried a new approach three times, change the approach.  Try again.

Keep doing something different.

Good luck and stay on-the-right-track this week.

Evaluate

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Be sure to always evaluate your interactions with difficult people.  You won’t learn new skills if you are not evaluating how you are doing.

Use the “liked best” and “next time” approach this week.

After you’ve had any contact with your DP, ask yourself “What did I like best about how I handled myself with X?” and then “What could I do different the next time this happens?”

You will learn what you need to continue and what you can change for the next time. Remember that if you keep on doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. Sometimes what you are doing is giving you the correct result, and sometimes it is not.  Evaluate what is working.

It works.  Try it and keep on-the-right-track this week.

Bully

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Don’t be a bully when you are confronting your difficult person.

It is tempting to want to have our say and then end the conversation.  That makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Be willing to have a two-sided conversation, not a one-sided lecture.

Think through what you want to say, say it and then wait for their response.  Not easy, but certainly better than lecturing (or appearing to lecture) and compounding the problem.

So, the last time you confronted someone – were you a bully?

Interrupting

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Don’t interrupt. When someone is ‘exploding’ on you (having a verbal
outburst that feels like an attack), bite your tongue.  The average angry
explosion last 45 seconds.  That is a long time when someone is yelling at
you.  Concentrate on not interrupting them.  Let them finish.

Quite frankly, even if you do interrupt, they won’t hear you – they are
still focused on their anger and unable to process what you say.

Take that time to hear what they are saying (without absorbing the anger) and
to prepare your response.

Others

Monday, October 13th, 2008

When you are having a confrontation or difficult conversation, never bring “others” into it.  Stay away from saying “Mary has the same problem with you” or “I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

When others are brought into the conversation it takes away the focus from your intent and will distract from the confrontation/conversation.  The person you are speaking with is now thinking about Mary or other people instead of focusing on the issue at hand.  Your intent is lost, and so is the conversation.

Stand

Monday, October 6th, 2008

If you are dealing with your difficult person (or having your confrontation) over the telephone, have your conversation standing (instead of sitting).

While standing, our voice is deeper, thereby projecting more confidence.  While seated, your voice is not nearly as effective.

Practice by recording your voice mail standing tomorrow morning.  Listen to the difference!

Hands

Monday, September 29th, 2008

When dealing with your difficult person it is important to remember the
importance of body language.  Your words, tone and body language must match.

Experts tell us that crossed arms indicate we are defensive or not
listening.  This may or may not be true.  When dealing with your difficult
person we would not want to send the incorrect message to them.  They will interpret
what they see, not necessarily what you intend.  You may be crossing your arms
because you are cold – they may interpret that you are being aggressive.  There is no
right or wrong, just different perspectives.

Put your hands at your side, in your pockets (keep them still), or behind
your back, but remember not to cross your arms.

You may be doing this because you are cold or comfortable.  Unfortunately
your difficult person may read your actions completely different.

Eye Contact

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Maintain eye contact while dealing with your difficult person.  It won’t be easy, but you will want to ensure you don’t look down (looks like you are being chastised), nor do you want to look up (looks like you are rolling your eyes), nor do you want to look uncomfortable (even though you may be).

It is important for you to maintain eye contact, or the illusion of eye contact.  You want the “playing field” to be level.  Hold your own.  Maintain eye contact (but don’t stare) :-)

If you have a challenge with eye contact, focus instead at eyebrow level between the eyes (where the “unibrow” would be).

The other person cannot tell that you are not making eye contact, and it allows you the separation from the emotions that direct eye contact cannot give you.  You stay calm(er) and you give the illusion of eye contact (which is important).

Payoff

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Each person behaves in a certain way because there is a payoff to that behaviour.

A child misbehaves in a grocery store because the payoff is that her mommy will buy her a candy bar to keep her quiet.
A co-worker deliberately does a poor job at work when delegated to so that he is never delegated to again.
A supervisor intimidates her employees because fear is a great way to maintain control over employees.

None of these behaviours make sense when you look at it black and white; but looking at the potential payoff help explains the behaviour of your difficult person

Ask yourself what the payoff is for your difficult person’s behaviour?  Why do they do what they do?  Why does it bother you so much?  Is it the behaviour you have a problem with, or the person’s payoff?

Make sure that your response to the behaviour is the correct reponse.  Are you reacting to the fact that the child is misbehaving or being rewarded for it?  Are you upset that slackers continue to do nothing in the office, or are you upset that they get away with it?

Be sure to evaluate your own responses/reactions to difficult behavior and ensure your strategy will work for you – and not against you.

Meetings

Monday, September 8th, 2008

If you are attending a meeting this week, and your difficult person is attending, make a point to sit BESIDE her, not across the table from her.

When you position yourself across the table you are placing yourself in a potentially adversarial position.  By putting yourself beside your difficult person you are in a position of equality, not competition.

Why?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Difficult behaviour is usually “learned” behaviour (as opposed to deliberate).  Somewhere along the way your difficult person “learned” that when they do “x” they get “y.”  What that means to you:  They aren’t necessarily targeting you, but are repeating a technique that has worked for years.  Don’t take it personally, it probably isn’t about you.

For instance:  A child learns at a very young age that when they make noise they get attention.  As they grow, they learn the crying gets them attention.  At a certain age, that crying turns to yelling, or saying inappropriate things.  Your difficult person wants attention, and they have learned that by doing “something” they get that attention. That isn’t about you, it is about attention for your difficult person.

Don’t wait

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

When someone does or says something that is inappropriate, you have 24 hours to address the situation. If you wait longer than 24 hours, you have ‘allowed’ that behavior to continue.


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