Dealing With Difficult People –4 Reaction Steps

Difficult people

 4 Action Steps When Dealing With Difficult People

When you feel you may be experiencing a “difficult” encounter, consider these 4 actions to help you navigate through it.

1)    Check Yourself:

Before you react to what may be a “difficult person,” first check what you were just thinking or feeling.

If you had recently been in a difficult situation or have generally been experiencing increased stress, you need to consider how this has primed your reaction. Be aware of your own thoughts and your own physical status. Your reaction to difficulty may put you in a fight-or-flight mode. Being aware of your thoughts and emotions can help you remain in control. This will only take you a few seconds and can be well worth the effort.

2)    Get Into the Moment:

Pay attention to the physical space you’re in, actually notice where you are by looking at the room, make an effort to feel the floor beneath your feet, listen to the sounds in the room, notice a light source or something specific. Think of your role in the situation to provide yourself with context. This can help your brain move into the current moment. You can practice this skill anytime to improve upon it.

3)    Notice the Person:

Look at her demeanor, clothing, posture and face.

Sometimes you notice that what you perceived as a loud angry voice was just a person with a different type of voice. Tone of voice, choice of language and communication styles is often impacted by age, gender, culture, physical health and so much more. What you may perceive as rude may not be intended as such. See this as neither good nor bad, but rather, just as it. For example, in some cultures people speak with more heightened emotions. You don’t have to know the differences just remember they exist.

Of course, sometimes a person is being “difficult.” You may notice signs of agitation, aggression, confusion and more. Paying attention to the person can enable you to notice what’s underlying his behavior. Even when you can’t decipher his emotions, paying attention enables you to be in the moment and see him as a person who may be in need of your composure in response.

4)    Control Your Body Language:

Your body position and posture has a huge impact on your brain. For example, we know that smiling can actually begin to improve your mood and that standing tall can make you feel more confident.

As you approach the person, put your shoulders back, chest out and walk at a measured pace. As you get closer, you may slowly reshape your posture to slightly mimic the person’s body language.

If they’re sitting or standing in a “tight” position (arms folded, hunched) it can be useful to momentarily step into a similar body position. However, once you do this be aware that it can impact your own thoughts and moods. Once you’re face to face, slowly reshape your posture back to one where you feel stronger, with your back straight, shoulders up and an appropriate look on your face, whether it’s concern, compassion or interest, as befitting the situation and the information you hear.

We'll always encounter difficult people. These 4 actions may not solve whatever problem you may have encountered, but they can enable you to better manage your emotional reactions and increase your ability to deal with what’s coming next.

Related article:

How Connected Employees Can Lead to Disruptive Change


About the author

Tara Orchard

Tara Orchard is a coach, trainer, consultant and writer who applies her insights into people and Masters training in psychology to facilitate performance improvements, relationships and communication for people and businesses. She has worked with organizations to deliver clarity on culture and brand, develop their people and manage relationships with social network communities.  Over the past 18 years she has consulted with 1000's of people who want to make effective transitions in their lives. Tara has a knack for hearing what people are thinking and helping them see what they need to see. She is the founder of her own career and social network coaching business, works with several other organizations as a coach and consultant and is about to complete her first book on the "psychology of effective social networking". Tara invites you to connect with her on LinkedIn .