Posts Tagged ‘inconsiderate people’

Top 10 ways to manage conflict in a business

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

When conflict arises in the workplace—as it inevitably does—many smaller organizations and family enterprises are not prepared to handle it. It takes some careful crafting of policies, as well as genuine self-reflection, to get the team back on track. These tips will get you started.

1. Understand and evaluate people’s emotional responses When employees have strong emotional reactions to a workplace dispute, their whole internal defence mechanism may resort to a fight or flight reaction, and their ability to think and reason will typically take second place. The best strategy is to communicate with those involved after the anger and upset has dissipated. Arguing with someone who is emotionally triggered usually leads nowhere.

2. Be self-aware Are you a conflict avoider or an aggressive leader? Be aware of who you are, how you deal with conflict, and the significant impact you are having on the situation. Not everyone may respond well to your style and there will be times where you may need to adapt and demonstrate better leadership.

3. Consider the views of all parties involved No one wants to be told they are wrong. In fact, dialogue is often halted when someone is made to be wrong. Are the leaders in your organization creating conflict by not allowing others to have a voice or make contributions? Are team members too righteous to foster team work? It’s important to always consider different points of view.

4. Get to the root of the issue Sometimes a conflict is a manifestation of a deeper issue, either at the management level or on the ground. A great resource is the 1981 classic bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury. It provides a simple step-by-step method for getting to the source of the issue and moving beyond it.

5. Accept people for who they are and who they are not People process information and make decisions differently. Knowing how your team members approach their work provides invaluable understanding, allowing them to draw on the strength of others rather than discredit their work styles or habits.

6. Implement regular feedback meetings Consider implementing weekly “open sessions” for the sole purpose of brainstorming what is working and what isn’t. This will allow you to address issues when they are small before they escalate.

7. Have the team create a conflict resolution protocol where everyone buys in People tend to accept what they helped to create. Investing the time to create a conflict resolution protocol will pay huge dividends in the long run.

8. Have the team adopt communication guidelines Not all forms of communications are acceptable in the workplace. Have your team recognize unacceptable and counterproductive manners of communication and create guidelines that they are willing to abide by. Include yourself in this exercise because you may be communicating in a way that is not fostering open dialogue, which in the long run may be the source of much conflict within the organization.

9. Be vigilant and enforce the measures that the team developed No one likes to deal with conflict or reprimand people. However, once there are clear conflict resolution and communication guidelines, they must be implemented in a strategic and consistent way.

10. Do you have the right people? If a team member is not functioning well or is creating conflict, evaluate if that person’s skills would be better suited for a different team or position, or whether that person fits in at your organization.

Article by, Nathalie Boutet

Toronto lawyer and family law expert Nathalie Boutet focuses on negotiating to keep disputes out of court. A pioneer in the field of neuro family law, which integrates brain science, psychology and legal negotiation, Ms. Boutet was nominated in 2015 to receive the prestigious Canada’s Top 25 Changemakers award by Canadian Lawyer.

As appeared on theglobeandmail.com

How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Boxing glove punching hand

Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. Dealing with them is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution.

Difficult people come in every conceivable variety. Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. Some coworkers fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create. Difficult coworkers compete with you for power, privilege, and the spotlight; some go way too far in courting the boss’s positive opinion – to your detriment.

Some coworkers attempt to undermine you and you constantly feel as if you need to watch your back. Your boss plays favorites and the favored party lords it over you; people form cliques and leave you out. Difficult people and situations exist in every workplace.

They all have one thing in common. You must address them. No matter the type of difficult situation in which you find yourself, dealing with difficult people or situations is a must.

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Trust me. Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Unaddressed, necessary conflict simmers just below – and often erupts counter-productively above – the surface at work.

Initially, people go into shock when they are treated unprofessionally, so if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long term is not an option.

You become so angry and feel so much pain that your efforts to address the situation become irrational.

It’s far better to address the difficult person while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.

Constant complaining about the coworker or situation can quickly earn you the title of whiner or complainer. Managers wonder why you are unable to solve your own problems – even if the manager’s tolerance or encouragement of the situation is part of the problem.

Worse Case Scenario If You Fail to Deal With Difficult People

Most importantly, if you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may not only get blamed for being “unable to handle the situation like a mature professional,” you may be labeled as a “difficult” person, too. This label is hard to escape and can have devastating consequences for your career.

Finally, if the situation continues to deteriorate over time, the organization and your boss may tire of you. The boss may decide you are a “high maintenance” employee, easily replaced with a more professional or cooperative person, and you could lose your job.

Dealing With the Difficult Coworker

I’ve experienced workplaces in which all sorts of dysfunctional approaches to dealing with a difficult coworker have been tried. Putting an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox is not an option.

Placing a can of deodorant on a hygiene-challenged coworker’s desk is not a productive option either. Confronting the ​bully publicly can often lead to disaster. Putting dead bugs in his desk drawer can leave your boss no option other than to fire you. So, let’s look at more productive ways to address your difficult coworker.

Are you convinced that in almost all cases you need to productively deal with your difficult coworker? Good. Then, read on to find ten ways to approach dealing with difficult people.

These are ten productive ways to deal with your difficult coworker. Let’s start with the first five.

  • Start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions?Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with coworkers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) Always start with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions.
  • Explore what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or colleague. Brainstorm ways to address the situation. When you are the object of an attack, or your boss appears to support the dysfunctional actions of a coworker, it is often difficult to objectively assess your options. Anger, pain, humiliation, fear, and concern about making the situation worse are legitimate emotions.Pay attention to the unspoken agreement you create when you solicit another’s assistance. You are committing to act unless you agree actions will only hurt the situation. Otherwise, you risk becoming a whiner or complainer in the eyes of your colleague.
  • Approach the person with whom you are having the problem for a private discussion.Talk to the coworker about what you are experiencing in “I” messages. (Using “I” messages is a communication approach that focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person.) You can also explain to your coworker the impact of their actions on you.Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people. Worst case?

    They may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions going forward.

  • Follow-up after the initial discussion. Has the behavior changed? Gotten better? Or worse? Determine whether a follow-up discussion is needed. Determine whether a follow-up discussion will have any impact. Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself.Become a peacemaker. (Decide how badly you want to make peace with the other person and how much you want your current job. Determine whether you have experienced a pattern of support from your boss.) If you answer, “yes,” to these questions, hold another discussion. If not, escalate and move to the next idea.
  • You can confront your difficult coworker’s behavior publicly. Deal with the person with gentle humor or slight sarcasm. Or, make an exaggerated physical gesture – no, not that one – such as a salute or place your hand over your heart to indicate a serious wounding.You can also tell the difficult person that you’d like them to consider important history in their decision making or similar words expressed positively, depending on the subject. Direct confrontation does work well for some people in some situations. I don’t think it works to ask the person to stop doing what they’re doing, publicly, but you can employ more positive confrontational tactics.

    Their success for you will depend on your ability to pull them off. Each of us is not spur-of-the-moment funny, but if you are, you can use the humor well with difficult coworkers.

Want five more tips? Fleeing is definitely an option.

  • If you have done what you can do and employed the first five recommended approaches with little or no success, it’s time to involve others – your boss or a manager. Note that you are escalating the situation. Prepare to talk with your boss.Take notes and address the issues, not as interpersonal problems, but as issues affecting your productivity, the work and your progress on projects. Tell your boss exactly what the difficult person does.

    Make a plan to address the issues. Perhaps involve your coworker’s boss. Recognize that a good boss is likely to bring your difficult coworker and his supervisor into a three or four-way discussion at this point. Expect to participate in follow-up over time.

  • Rally the other employees who might have an issue with the difficult person, too – carefully. Sometimes, a group approach convinces the boss that the impact of the behavior is wider and deeper than she had originally determined. Be careful with this approach, however. Know what works with your boss. You want to solve your problem, not make it look as if you are rabble-rousing and ganging up on another employee.
  • If these approaches fail to work, try to limit the difficult person’s access to you. Protect the needs of your business, but avoid working with the person when possible. Leave voluntary committees, Choose projects he or she does not impact. Don’t hurt your own career or your business, but avoidance is an option.
  • Transfer to a new job within your organization. Depending on the size of your company, you may never have to work with this difficult coworker again. Fleeing is definitely an option.
  • If all else fails, you can quit your job. What, flee, you ask? But, I wasn’t the employee with the problem. I was not the difficult coworker. All I tried to do was my job. You’re right. But, what price, in terms of your happiness and success, are you willing to pay to stay? You need to decide whether the good in your current situation outweighs the bad or whether the bad outweighs the good.If the good wins, stop complaining and get back to work. Backtrack on these recommended steps and retry some of them when appropriate. If the bad wins, redirect your energy to leaving your current employment. You’ll be glad you did. Check out the second part of this article to find out how to conduct a stealth job search and much more about job searching.

Article by, Susan M. Heathfield
As appeared on thebalance.com

How to Manage Conflict

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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.

 

Article by, Gill Corkindale

As appeared on https://hbr.org/2007/11/how-to-manage-conflict

Overcome Your Fear of Confrontation and Conflict

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Build Your Conflict Resolution Skills

Multi-ethnic business people having a meaningful and appropriate confrontation.

A former colleague holds complete conversations in his head with people with whom he is angry. He rarely speaks directly with the other person. This anger in his mind continues to build because of his frustration, yet he never lets the other person know that he is frustrated and subsequently angry.

His conflict avoidance almost cost him his marriage because he didn’t let his wife into the conversations he was having with her but by himself.

It was almost too late by the time he did bring her into the real conversation.

His need to avoid confrontation is so strong that he has a safe confrontation in his mind and feels that he has dealt with the issue. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work – especially for the other person involved.

Are you guilty of holding mental conflicts and confrontations?

Many people are uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. I understand the concept of having the conversation in your head; so you can plan out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometimes these mental conversations are enough to settle the issue, as you realize you are making too much out of a simple situation.

I know that I have spent hours lying in bed at night having conversations with people with whom I am angry and frustrated. Not only does this practice disrupt your sleep, your attitude, and your health, it never really resolves the issue, and is potentially damaging to your relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that you need to confront every action. If you have the conversation once in your head, don’t worry about it. If it comes back and you have it again, perhaps start thinking about holding a real conversation.

By the third in your head confrontation, you need to start planning how you will deal with the real confrontation because it looks as if you are going to need to do that.

How to Hold a Real, Necessary Conflict or Confrontation

Start by preparing yourself to confront the real issue. Be able to state the issue in one (or two), non-emotional, factual based sentences.

For example, assume you want to confront your coworker for taking all of the credit for the work that the two of you did together on a project. Instead of saying, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” and venting your frustration, which is what you might say in your mind, rephrase your approach using the above guidelines.

Say instead, “It looks as if I played no role in the Johnson account. My name does not appear anywhere on the document, nor I have been given credit anywhere that I can see.”

(I’ve used additional communication techniques such as I-language as well in this statement. Notice that I avoided using the words I feel because that is an emotional statement, without proof and facts. The facts in this statement cannot be disputed, but an I feel statement is easy for your coworker to refute.)

Make your initial statement and stop talking.

When the person you are confronting responds, allow them to respond. It’s a human tendency, but don’t make the mistake of adding to your initial statement, to further justify the statement.

Defending why you feel the way you do will generally just create an argument. Say what you want to say (the confrontation), then just allow the other person to respond.

Especially since you’ve probably held the conversation in your head a few times, you may think you know how the other person is going to respond. But, it’s a mistake to jump to that point before they have the opportunity to respond. Resist the temptation to say anything else at this point. Let them respond.

Avoid arguing during the confrontation.

Confrontation does not mean fight. It means that you need to state what you have say. Listen to what they have to say. Many times it actually ends right there.

Do you need to prove the other person right or wrong? Does someone have to take the blame? Get your frustration off your chest, and move on.

Figure out the conflict resolution you want before the confrontation.

If you approached your coworker with the initial statement, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” her response is likely going to be quite defensive. Perhaps she’ll say something like, “Yes, you have been given credit. I said both of our names to the boss just last week.”

If you already know what you are looking for in the confrontation, this is where you move the conversation. Don’t get into an argument about whether she did or didn’t mention anything to the boss last week – that isn’t really the issue and don’t let it distract you from accomplishing the goal of the confrontation.

Your response could be, “I would appreciate if in the future that we use both of our names on any documentation, and include each other in all of the correspondence about the project.”

Focus on the real issue of the confrontation.

The other party will either agree or disagree. Keep to the issue at this point, and avoid all temptation to get into an argument. Negotiate, but don’t fight.

The issue is you aren’t receiving credit, and you want your name on the documentation. That’s it. It isn’t about blame, about who is right or wrong or anything other than your desired resolution.

You will rarely look forward to confrontation; you may never become completely comfortable with, or even skilled in confrontation. However, it is important that you say something when you are frustrated and angry. If you can’t stand up for yourself, who will?

Conflict Management Styles: The Start of Effective Conflict Management

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Conflict is part of life. Conflict is any situation in which people have incompatible interests, goals, principles or feelings and experience.  In other words, conflict means that two people experience discomforting differences.

Despite our best efforts, we find ourselves in disagreements with other people in all aspects of our lives:  at work, in our relationships, in our volunteer activities.  How we respond to provocation can determine if conflict moves in a beneficial or a harmful direction.  The good news is that we can learn skills, strategies and processes to manage conflict.

The goal of  conflict management is to manage yourself and others so as to bring about the best possible resolution of a conflict situation in terms of the issue at hand, the relationship.  When handled effectively, conflict carries with it opportunity:

Better Relationships:
Conflict is a signal that changes might be necessary in the relationships or the situation so conflict management can build relationships. It also encourages listening and taking the perspective of the other person for greater rapport.

Better Outcomes:
Conflict stimulates problem-solving and open communication to arrive at better solutions.

Less Stress:
Conflict provides a means for expressing emotions which can ultimately clear the air and reduce tension.

Let us examine the first step in becoming an effective conflict manager:  knowing how to use the 5 conflict management styles and strategies.

Conflict Management Styles

The start of being an effective conflict manager is being aware of your style in conflict and the style of those that you deal with.  These styles were identified by two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970’s to illustrate the options that we have in dealing with conflict.
There are 5 different styles for managing conflict.  These are tendencies and we may use any one of these styles at different times.  However, people tend to have one or two preferred or default waysof dealing with conflict.

1.    Avoid
A person who avoids conflict does not deal the issue at hand when it arises.  This means that neither his own concerns nor those of the other person are addressed. Avoiding might mean diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or withdrawing from a threatening situation.

2.    Accommodate
Someone who accommodates the other person in a conflict prefers to satisfy the concerns of the other person, thereby neglecting his own concerns.  Accommodation carries with it an element of self-sacrifice.  This mode might involve selfless generosity or charity or yielding to another’s point of view.

3.    Compromise
The individual who prefers to compromise wants to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution. Compromising addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

4.    Collaborate
In collaboration, the individual prefers to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. This is the best way to achieve the win/win solution:  one where each party feels that he or she achieved his or her goals.  It involves exploring an issue to identify the underlying interests of the parties in order to arrive at an outcome that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, or looking for a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.

5.    Compete
An individual who competes pursues his or her own interests without regard to the other person’s goals and seeking to impose his power in order to win his position. Competing might mean standing up for one’s rights, defending a position believed to be right, or simply trying to win.

Conflict Management Strategies

These styles translate into 5 different strategies for managing conflict which are based on 4 factors:

•    issues: the extent to which the conflict involves important priorities, principles or values are involved in the conflict;
•    relationship: the importance of maintaining a close, mutually supportive relationship with the other party;
•    relative power: the power balance between you and the other party;
•    available time:  how much time you have to resolve the issue.

By knowing when to use each strategy, you can begin to make choices about which is the most appropriate to the situation.

Let us take a closer look at when to use each strategy:

1.    Avoid

Avoiding is an appropriate strategy where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict.  When used as a choice, it helps to cool things down and reduce stress. Avoiding is appropriate when
•    the conflict is small and relationships are at stake
•    you are upset and need to time to cool off
•    there are more important issues to deal with
•    you have no power and you see no chance of getting your concerns met
•    you are too emotionally involved and others around you can solve the conflict more successfully.

However, if either the issue or the relationship between the parties is important, avoidance is a poor strategy because important decisions may be made by default and postponing resolution of the issue may make matters worse.

2.    Accommodate

Accommodate is a good strategy when you find yourself in conflict over a fairly unimportant issue and you would like to resolve the conflict without straining your relationship with the other party.  Someone who accommodates builds good will and can be perceived as reasonable. Collaborating is also an option, but it might not be worth the time.  The focus is on the relationship, as opposed to the outcome.
Accommodate is the right strategy when
•     an issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person
•    you realize you are wrong
•    the time is not right to resolve the issue and you would prefer to simply build credit for the future
•    harmony in the relationship is extremely important.

The downside is that your ideas do not get sufficient attention and may be neglected, causing you to feel resentful.  Moreover, you may lose credibility and influence if accommodation becomes a pattern.

3.    Compromise

When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions.  However, compromise does not completely satisfy either party, and compromise does not foster innovation the way that taking the time to collaborate can.  Compromise helps to get to solutions and is good for overcoming impasses. It works when:
•    people of relatively equal power are equally committed to goals
•    you can save time by reaching intermediate resolution of parts of complex issues
•    the goals are moderately important.

However, compromise can backfire if the parties overlook important principles and long-term goals for the sake of the details.  Moreover, it is not the best way to reach an optimal solution on important issues.  The parties also risk engaging in excessive “horse-trading” while losing sight of the big picture.

4.    Collaborate

Conflict management experts advocate collaboration as the best way to resolve a conflict over important issues.  The premise is that teamwork and cooperation help all parties to achieve their goals while also maintaining the relationships. The process of working through differences will lead to creative solutions that will satisfy both parties’ concerns.  Collaboration is the way to achieve the best outcome on important issues as well as build good relationships since it takes into account all of the parties’ underlying interests.
Collaboration works best when:
•     the parties trust each other
•    it is important for all sides to buy into the outcome
•    the people involved are willing to change their thinking as more information is found and new options are suggested
•    the parties need to work through animosity and hard feelings.

The downside is that the process requires a lot of time and energy.  If time is precious, compete or compromise might be a better solution.

5.    Compete

Compete is a useful strategy when the outcome is extremely important and an immediate decision needs to be taken.  It is efficient and effective when you need to take a stand. In that case, one must sometimes use power to win.  Compete is appropriate when
•    you know you are right
•    time is short and a quick decision is needed
•    you need to stand up for your rights.

However, when used too often, compete can escalate the conflict, breed resentment among others and damage relationships.

How to Use Conflict Management Strategies
The first step in managing your conflicts is to be aware of your default style.  Where has it worked for you?  Where did it let you down?  What were the consequences?

Once you know about the other styles and strategies, you can begin to apply them in the appropriate situation.  The good news is that this is a skill that you can practice and eventually master.

In addition, once you know the different styles, you can identify them in the people with whom you are in conflict.  This can help you to understand their perspective and frame the appropriate response.

By knowing the styles and how to use them effectively, you can begin to take charge of those uncomfortable conflict situations.

With these principles in mind, you are now ready for action. For more information, here is how  to prepare for a conflict meeting and conduct a conflict negotiation.

Article by,

© Astrid Baumgardner 2012

 

Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success and blogs on career development and personal development for musicians creative professionals at www.astridbaumgardner.com/blog.

How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Friday, April 28th, 2017
Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negativity they spread, while others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos.
How Smart People Handle Difficult People

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 percent 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Keeping Your Cool: Dealing with Difficult People

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

By: Dr. Rhonda Savage

People today have a short fuse—everyone is stressed.  And when people are stressed, they can become difficult to be around. Chances are, you’ve worked with at least one difficult person in your organization.  You recognize the behaviors of a difficult person, such as a bad attitude, apathy, difficulty handling change, and terrible customer service. Difficult people give you the silent treatment or worse–they can be verbally aggressive.Unfortunately, if you don’t address this kind of behavior, one of two things will happen:  Employees will become resentful and think less of you as a leader.

Employees will start modeling the behavior of the person who is not being corrected.

It’s important to understand that there’s only one reason anyone behaves in an unacceptable manner: the person gets away with it! So, who’s responsible for difficult people? The answer is anyone who tolerates them. Every time you give in to a difficult person, every time you choose not to confront him or her, you allow a difficult person to continue this rude behavior.

What does a difficult person in your office look like?  Often, he is the one who gets the better schedule. He may come in late or leave the office early, leaving his or her work for others to finish. The individual might take a longer lunch, hold long personal calls during work hours, or refuse to lend a co-worker a hand. Individuals in the office don’t ask the person to work with them because they don’t like the individual.

So, how can you change this situation? Confrontation is one answer. Unfortunately, it can be hard for anyone to address this issue. However, it’s important to understand that dealing with the issue will facilitate a more harmonious atmosphere in the office, leading to increased productivity, improved morale, and a healthier bottom line.

You’ll need to set boundaries, expectations and guidelines, and then hold the person accountable for his or her behaviors. Here are some tips, whether you are an employee dealing with a difficult supervisor, a worker dealing with a co-worker, or a manager dealing with a challenging employee:

Owner or Manager to Employee: Have you ever had an employee who was demanding, condescending, abrupt, tearful, insecure, and high maintenance—yet he or she did an excellent job? Were you worried about losing the person because of the great work? Just because someone does great work doesn’t make him or her a good employee. If you have a person whose behavior is affecting the morale and productivity in the office, and you’ve already coached the employee on the issue, this person needs a formal corrective review.

The employee should be given a copy of the corrective review; a signed copy is placed in his or her employee file. Let the employee know the specific behavior you need to have changed, your clearly defined expectations, and a time frame to work within. Have a follow-up meeting within a designated time period to give the employee the feedback needed. Be sure to provide clear oversight.

Employee to Manager:  What if the difficult person is your boss or manager? Approach your employer or supervisor first by asking: “I need to talk with you about something.  Is now a good time?” If not, schedule a time to talk. Begin by expressing your intention and your motives. Explain your concern about a loss of business and unhappy clients, and that your intentions are to help make the workplace not only productive but also satisfactory to clients.

Another approach is to talk about how certain behaviors in the office are decreasing efficiency. Explain that you’d like to talk about ways to improve the systems in the office. By first addressing the issues as though you’re tackling a problem or a system issue, your supervisor or employer will not be defensive. Always be tactful, professional, calm, and polite. Ask your employer or manager for his or her goals and offer to give suggestions to help meet those goals.

Use the “feel, felt, found” method: “Many of our customers feel uncomfortable when you speak to the other employees; they’ve expressed how they’ve felt when you left the room. I’ve found if I convey customer concerns to my supervisor that our sales have increased.”

Employee to Employee:  If you have a problem with a co-worker, the best course of action is to go to that person directly. Do not talk about the issues with your fellow co-workers behind the other person’s back! Go to the person privately and tell them about it.

There are three steps to this.

Let the person know you’d like to talk about something that’s been bothering you. Ask him or her, “Is this a good time?”

Describe the behavior with dates, names, and times. Be specific. Begin by saying:  “I’d like to talk with you about this. This is how I felt when….” Speak only for yourself and how the behavior affects you.

Describe what you would like to see changed. Try to resolve the issue first personally and privately. If the situation does not change, request a meeting between yourself, the other person and your employer.  Everyone can choose his or her attitude. Each day, when someone walks out the front door to go to work, that person has a choice in how his or her day will play out.  You can’t always choose the people who surround you but you can try to make them aware of their behaviors.  If you have a difficult person in your life, set the boundaries, explain your expectations, and then hold that person accountable.  Be calm when you’re doing this!  The person who is calm and asks the questions is the one in control.

About the Author

Dr. Rhonda Savage is an internationally acclaimed speaker and CEO for a well-known practice management and consulting business. As past President of the Washington State Dental Association, she is active in organized dentistry and has been in private practice for more than 16 years. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker on practice management, women’s issues, communication and leadership, and zoo dentistry.

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.

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

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

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

Dealing with Enemies

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Someone has been talking smack about you.

Someone will talk about you in the future, too, and they won’t always say nice things.

If you’re under the misguided belief that no one has ever said anything bad about you behind your back, you’re naïve. Sometimes it’s even the people you consider friends who will stab you in the back.

There are some things you can do to minimize the harmful effects a backstabber will have on you.

  1. Try not to take it personally. Even though it may feel like it, it’s actually not about you. When someone is talking smack about you, it’s because they either feel threatened by you, or they feel there is something to be gained. So stop taking it personally, because it’s about the other person — not you.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

  1. Choose your battles. This is not your cue to fight back. It may be tempting to give your backstabber that stare that lasts a few seconds too long, or to walk right up to them and say, “Game on!” But while it’s tempting, it’s not smart; don’t do it.

Your backstabber is probably better at this than you are, so you’re bound to come out of the exchange worse off. Plus, what will it say about you when you stoop to their level? It will say a lot of negative things about you, so don’t do it.

“I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” ―George Bernard Shaw

There may be times when you need to confront your backstabber (as a last resort: See #5), so take the high road and don’t give anyone a reason to think that perhaps the backstabber is right, and you are an awful person, after all.

If you do need to confront your backstabber, check out my previous article here

  1. Be smarter than they are. That means you won’t be giving them a knife to stick in your back ever again. You need to pay attention to what you say, what comments you make, the opinions you share, and the fact they are probably looking to catch you doing or saying something you shouldn’t. Don’t give them the opportunity. Learn to be evasive, or learn to stop talking when they’re around. Choose your words and actions wisely. Be on the defensive, and stay at least one step ahead of your backstabber.
  2. Act your age. Don’t respond like a child. Don’t go running to all your friends at work and complain to them about what is happening. If you do, you are being a backstabber right back.

You need to document what is going on. It may start as a simple issue, but perhaps what you are dealing with is a bully in training. Make sure you have documentation about who, what, where, when, and how the backstabbing happened.

There will be times when you do need to go to your boss, or someone higher, and let them know what’s going on. Don’t be a tattletale; instead, be a prepared professional. Don’t focus on how it makes you feel, but focus on the negative consequences to the company and your department.

  1. Confront, if needed. I mentioned earlier that there are times when you should confront your backstabber.

If someone is talking smack about my spending habits, my car, my shoes, or my personal life, I don’t think twice about it. To me, that is clearly jealousy and if it makes the other person feel better to talk smack about me because of their jealousy, I can live with that.

If you struggle with it, go back to tip number one.

But if someone is talking smack about me professionally, about what I do and how I got where I am, then I’ll confront them. That type of backstabbing is potentially dangerous to my professional reputation and my career, and it needs to be stopped.

However, before I confront the person I will make sure that I’ve cooled down. I won’t confront anyone when I’m upset and angry. I’ll also speak to my boss or HR to be sure of the route they want me to take. And, I’ll make sure that I’ve documented what I want to say, and prepared for the confrontation to ensure that I do what I need to do. I need to respond to the person’s words and get them to stop, not react emotionally.

If you hear someone talking smack about me, please tell me. If you know that someone is talking smack about you, either because caught him or her at it or because someone told you, follow the advice above.

Dealing with enemies is never easy. Remember that they do have an agenda; they are trying to get ahead, at your expense. Deal with them professionally and consistently, and very quickly they will learn not to mess with you!

5 ways to diffuse political arguments at work

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

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

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

1. Go along

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

2. Ask questions

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

3. Change the topic to talking about politics at work

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

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

4. Excuse yourself, involve someone else

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

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

5. Look … it’s football!

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

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

About the Author

Catherine Iste

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


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