4 Strategies for Working with "Difficult" People

People are not easy, we tend to act strangely, erratically and sometimes without any consistency or logic. This is not only frustrating to our sense of logic and order but also frustrating when we are trying to work or manage something, as difficult people often carry a weight of baggage that may have nothing to do with the tasks we're trying to complete but that we are nevertheless faced with when dealing with them. How do we deal with difficult people? We gain a little bit of empathy, and communicate in a healthy way. Here are some strategies to help you resolve any conflicts and work in harmony.

What Have They Experienced?

One thing that can be very difficult to work with is prejudice. This could be racial prejudice, gender prejudice or a prejudice against a certain sort of work, religious or educational situation. These attitudes did not come out of a vacuum - if they are virulent enough that they are keeping the person from functioning in a setting or with certain people, that is because they had difficult experiences much like what they are prejudiced against.

You don't have to accept someone's perspective in order to understand it. Try to understand the person's experience and how the current situation reminds them of it. If you really want to continue working with them, do not forgive their prejudices but try to show how futile applying to this situation is and how different the situation is. If done correctly, you're not about to change hearts but they will be more careful.

Realize We Aren't Easy

When we deal with a difficult person, the frustration can turn in to self-righteousness. A child that screams or throws things frustrates us and we forget that we too once were children who screamed and threw things. When dealing with someone who is being difficult out of frustration, remember that you have likely been in a similar situation and that judging them is a bit hypocritical. This may not necessarily make the person any easier to deal with but it will put things in perspective.

Assert Yourself Carefully

Boundaries are important. You can't change people - people really are fallen and say a bunch of contradictory things that they may genuinely believe when they say them. They're not always logical or sensible. You are not about to change this in people - human beings have been like this for a long time. However, you can change where they project themselves. If you effectively draw a line around yourself and others, anyone who is invested in maintaining a good working relationship will be weary of stepping over the line. In addition, communication in a work situation usually revolves around following and leading - by taking the lead, you are no longer following the example of a toxic and difficult person.

Most importantly, asserting yourself is about being proactive. This is not just important in dealing with difficult people but in life in general. Life can often be a seemingly endless barrage of problems and battles. You evade being sequestered down by these by being proactive - each day, even if your actions don't bring immediate goals, make sure that your goals and actions are proactive toward something. If you continue with this each day, eventually you will build up enough momentum that no one else will be able to break you down.

Use Humor

It's a whole lot less easy to get along with someone when everything is serious. Life is filled with absurdity and all sorts of things that are seemingly inexplicable, contradictory or without explanation. If you go around trying to make all of this in to serious matters with perpetrators and victims, you may just succeed in making everyone around you miserable. Humor deflects and disarms people and makes them less likely to attack or try to humiliate you.

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