Some would say it is an inescapable fact of life that we won’t always like or get on with our colleagues. If you mention the term ‘difficult people’, almost everyone can think of a specific person they are working with or have worked with in the past.
While we can’t always choose who we work with, there are some tips for working more effectively with others whom we consider to be ‘difficult’.
1 – Distinguish between people work differently from those who are truly difficult
Try not to label others as difficult when they just have a way of working that is different from yours. Usually when a person is truly difficult, most people have problems working with them. However, if you are the only one having difficulties getting on with a colleague, it’s more likely a case of conflict between your different personalities and styles.
2 – Identify how the other person’s behaviour affects you
Does your colleague’s behaviour really impact your work or do you just find them annoying? If the behaviour doesn’t affect your work directly, why not accept that they simply do things differently and let it go at that?
But what if their behaviour does affect you and has an adverse impact on your work?
3 – Accept that you can’t make anyone, including difficult people, change their personalities
Much of the stress experienced in dealing with difficult people comes from the amount of energy we expend wishing they would change or trying to get them to change in the hope that they will behave differently. By the time you meet a difficult person, they have likely acted like this for many years. This behaviour may have become deeply entrenched, making it unlikely that they will alter their conduct for any length of time. We can’t change someone else’s personality. We can sometimes influence them only if they wish us to do so. The only behaviour we can change is our own. This needs to be our primary focus.
4 – Identify who owns the problem
Difficult people rarely see themselves as having a problem. Instead, those who have trouble accepting a difficult person’s behaviour are the ones with the real problem. It’s important to accept that if we have a problem with someone’s behaviour, we have to take responsibility for communicating that there is a problem and state our desired solution.
5 – Choose a course of action
Rather than just reacting each time the other person pushes your ‘buttons’, consciously choose your response to the situation. There are three options we can choose from when dealing with any problem:
- We can try to change the situation.
- We can work on changing ourselves by not reacting to the other person’s behaviour in a way that stresses us out. Instead, we should work out what we want and need from the situation. If we don’t ask for changes, it’s unlikely that the other person will change their behaviour.
- Consider leaving the situation. This may a drastic step and is likely to be necessary only in rare cases where a situation seems destructive or even dangerous.
6 – Focus on behaviour, not personality
If you decide on the second course of action, make it clear what you want, need and expect – plan your communication and approach. Avoid trying to address areas like ‘attitude’. Instead, focus on the specific behaviour that’s unacceptable and on what you feel, think and want. This helps reduce the chances of a defensive reaction from others.
Finally, remember you don’t have to be best friends with your colleagues. These options will help you to create a rational, productive working relationship with most of the people you meet in your working life.
To find out how Emotional Intelligence can help you get on with anyone, get in touch.