Posts Tagged ‘stupid people’

Dealing with difficult people: A guide

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing It All Together

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

Article by,

Travis Bradberry, President, TalentSmart

6 Tips For Dealing With Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Friday, February 10th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. How Can Friends Stay Friendly?

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

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

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

5. Can I Maintain Sanity In My Nutty Office?

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

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

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

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

Article by, Ori Brafman

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

3 Steps To Managing Workplace Conflict With Emotional Intelligence

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Acknowledge

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

Step 2: Positively substitute

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

Step 3: Suggest, re-acknowledge and appreciate

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

Article by, Scott Allen

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

How to Deal with Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

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

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

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

Clingers

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

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

Controllers

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

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

Competitors

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

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

Self-Important People

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

Chronic Complainers

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

Victims

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

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

Article By, Deepak Chopra

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

Dealing with Difficult Customers

Monday, November 7th, 2016

It is easy to work with people you like, and it is even easier to work with people who like you. But that’s not always the case. Sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with a difficult customer.

Difficult customers come in a wide variety. There are those whose personality rubs you the wrong way. They may not be difficult for someone else, but they are for you. And then there are those who are difficult for everyone: Picky people, know-it-alls, egocentrics, fault-finders, constant complainers, etc. Every salesperson can list a number of the types.

But perhaps the most difficult for everyone is the angry customer. This is someone who feels that he or she has been wronged, and is upset and emotional about it. These customers complain, and they are angry about something you or your company did.

There are some sound business reasons to become adept in handling an angry customer. Research indicates that customers who complain are likely to continue doing business with your company if they feel that they were treated properly. It’s estimated that as many as 90% of customers who perceive themselves as having been wronged never complain, they just take their business elsewhere. So, angry, complaining customers care enough to talk to you, and have not yet decided to take their business to the competition. They are customers worth saving.

Not only are there benefits to your company, but you personally gain as well. Become adept at handling angry customers, and you’ll feel much more confident in your own abilities. If you can handle this, you can handle anything. While any one can work with the easy people, it takes a real professional to be successful with the difficult customers. Your confidence will grow, your poise will increase, and your self-esteem will intensify.

On the other hand, if you mishandle it, and you’ll watch the situation dissolve into lost business and upset people. You may find yourself upset for days.

So, how do you handle an angry, complaining customer? Let’s begin with a couple tools you can use in these situations.

1. RESPECT. It can be difficult to respect a person who may be yelling, swearing or behaving like a two-year-old. I’m not suggesting you respect the behavior, only that you respect the person. Keep in mind that 99 times out of 100 you are not the object of the customer’s anger. You are like a small tree in the path of a swirling tornado. But unlike the small tree, you have the power to withstand the wind.

What is the source of your power? Unlike the customer, you are not angry, you are in control, and your only problem at the moment is helping him with his problem. If you step out of this positioning, and start reacting to the customer in an emotional way, you’ll lose control, you’ll lose your power, and the situation will be likely to escalate into a lose-lose for everyone. So, begin with a mindset that says, “No matter what, I will respect the customer.”

2. EMPATHY. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and try to see the situation from his/her perspective. Don’t try and cut him off, don’t urge him to calm down. Instead, listen carefully. If someone is angry or upset, it is because that person feels injured in some way. Your job is to let the customer vent and to listen attentively in order to understand the source of that frustration. When you do that, you send a powerful unspoken message that you care about him and his situation.

Often, as the customer comes to realize that you really do care and that you are going to attempt to help him resolve the problem, the customer will calm down on his own, and begin to interact with you in a positive way.

Here’s how you can use these two tools in an easily-remembered process for dealing with angry customers.

CRACK THE EGG

Imagine that you have a hard-boiled egg. The rich yellow yolk at the center of the egg represents the solution to the customer’s problem, the hardened white which surrounds the yolk represents the details of the customer’s situation, and the hard shell represents his/her anger.

In order to get to the yolk, and resolve the situation, you must first crack the shell. In other words, you have got to penetrate the customer’s anger. Then you’ve got to cut through the congealed egg white. That means that you understand the details of the customer’s situation. Finally, you’re at the heart of the situation, where you can offer a solution to the customer’s problem.

So, handling an angry customer is like cutting through a hard-boiled egg. Here’s a four-step process to help you do so.

1. LISTEN.

Let’s say you stop to see one of your regular customers. He doesn’t even give you time to finish your greeting before he launches into a tirade.

At this point, about all you can do is LISTEN. And that’s what you do. You don’t try and cut him off, you don’t urge him to calm down. Not just yet. Instead, you listen carefully. And as you listen, you begin to piece together his story. He ordered a piece of equipment three weeks ago. You quoted him X price and delivery by last Friday for a project that’s starting this week. Not only is the equipment not there, but he received an invoice for it at a different price than was quoted.

What kind of shoddy operation is this?” he wants to know. Do you understand how important his project is? Do you know how much time and money is at stake? If he doesn’t get his equipment and something happens to this project, you’re going to pay for it. He knew, he just knew he should have ordered the equipment from your competitor. What are you going do about it?

Now you have the basic story. Hopefully, after this gush of frustration, there will be a pause while he comes up for air.

More often than not, once the customer has had an initial chance to vent his rage, it’s going to die down a little, and that’s your opportunity to take step in.

Even if he has started calming down on his own, there comes a moment – and I can almost guarantee you’ll sense it – to help calm him down. Try something along the lines of: “It sounds like something has gone wrong, and I can understand your frustration. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this problem. Let’s take a look at the next step.”

Try to calm yourself first, and then to acknowledge his feelings. Say, “I can tell you’re upset…” or, “It sounds like you’re angry…” then connect to the customer by apologizing, or empathizing. When you say something like “I’m sorry that happened. If I were you, I’d be frustrated, too.” It’s amazing how much of a calming effect that can have.

Remember, anger is a natural, self-defensive reaction to a perceived wrong. If there is a problem with your company’s product or service, some frustration and disappointment is justified.

This is so important, let me repeat it. First you listen carefully and completely to the customer. Then you empathize with what the customer is feeling, and let him or her know that you understand. This will almost always calm the customer down. You’ve cracked the shell of the egg. Now, you can proceed to deal with the problem.

2. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.

Sometimes while the angry customer is venting, you’ll be able to latch right on to the problem because it’s clear-cut. Something is broken. Or late. Or he thinks a promise has been broken.

But sometimes in the middle of all that rage, it’s tough to comprehend the bottom-line issue. This is a good place for some specific questions. Ask the customer to give you some details. “What day did he order it, when exactly was it promised. What is his situation at the moment?” These kind of questions force the customer to think about facts instead of his/her feelings about those facts. So, you interject a more rational kind of conversation. Think of this step of the process as cutting through the white of the egg to get to the yolk at the center.

It’s important, when you think you understand the details, to restate the problem. You can say, “Let me see if I have this right. You were promised delivery last Friday, because you need it for an important project this coming week. But you haven’t received our product yet. Is that correct?”

He will probably acknowledge that you’ve sized up the situation correctly. Or, he may say, “No, that’s not right” and then proceed to explain further. In either case the outcome is good, because you will eventually understand his situation correctly, and have him tell you that “Yes, that’s right.”

And at that point you can apologize. Some people believe that an apology is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. But you can appreciate and apologize for the customer’s inconvenience without pointing fingers. Just say, “Mr. Brady, I’m sorry this has happened.” Or “Mr. Brady. I understand this must be very frustrating. Let’s just see what we can do fix it, OK?”

3. AVOID BLAME.

You don’t want to blame the customer by saying something like “Are you sure you understood the price and delivery date correctly?” This will just ignite his anger all over again because you are questioning his credibility and truth-telling.

And you don’t want to blame your company or your suppliers Never say, “I’m not surprised your invoice was wrong. It’s been happening a lot.” Or, “Yes, our backorders are way behind.”

In general, you AVOID BLAME. Which is different than acknowledging responsibility. For example, if you know, for a fact, a mistake has been made, you can acknowledge it and apologize for it. “Mr. Brady, clearly there’s a problem here with our performance. I can’t change that, but let me see what I can do to help you out because I understand how important your project is.”

4. RESOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Now you’re at the heart of the egg. You won’t always be able to fix the problem perfectly. And you may need more time than a single phone call. But it’s critical to leave the irate customer with the understanding that your goal is to resolve the problem. You may need to say, “I’m going to need to make some phone calls.” If you do, give the customer an idea of when you’ll get back to him: “Later this afternoon.” Or “First thing in the morning.”

Then do it. Make the phone calls. Get the information. Find out what you can do for this customer and do it. Then follow up with the customer when you said you would. Even if you don’t have all the information you need, call when you said you would and at least let him know what you’ve done, what you’re working on and what your next step will be. Let the customer know that he and his business are important to you, that you understand his frustration, and that you’re working hard to get things fixed.

Use the tools of respect and empathy, and the “crack the egg” process, and you’ll move your professionalism up a notch.

Article By, Dave Kahle

Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People

Friday, October 14th, 2016

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

1.    Keep Your Cool

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

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

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

2.    “Fly Like an Eagle”

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

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

3.    Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.    Pick Your Battles

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

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

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

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

5.    Separate the Person From the Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.     Put the Spotlight on Them

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

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

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

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

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

Aggressor: “You’re so stupid.”

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

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

7.    Use Appropriate Humor

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

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

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

8.    Change from Following to Leading

Benefit: Leverage direction and flow of communication.

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

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

9.    Confront Bullies (Safely)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.     Set Consequence

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

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

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

Article by,

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.

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

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

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

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

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

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

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

 What??!

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need to agree with them.

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

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

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

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

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

Article by, Shawn Casemore

The Arguments Your Company Needs

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By, Michael Schrage


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


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