They’re everywhere. At work or school, at the store, in your personal life…possibly in your dreams. I’m talking about difficult people. We can all be irritable or indecisive at times, especially when we’re overworked or under stress.
I get hangry (so hungry I get angry). It’s because my blood sugar drops extremely low. So, if I don’t eat when my sugar drops, I try to keep quiet. Part of it is to preserve my energy, my metabolism is very fast, and I burn through nutrients in no time. The other part is I can’t make up my mind at that point, I get impatient and can be grouchy. All I can think about is eating. And who wants to be in that type of conversation? Not me, and I’m a firm believer in treating people the way you want to be treated. So, in this rare instance, I will keep quiet! My solution, I try to have something to snack on with me at all times.
Some people are so unpleasant that they make having a reasonable talk almost impossible. Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid these types of conversations. Learning to handle them will help you get more done, and give you more peace of mind.
Most people don’t know that others have a hard time talking to them. Did you know that 80% of people have no knowledge that they act negatively, and don’t realize the impact they have on others? It makes sense. Do you know what people think of dealing with you?
Lots of people tend to avoid disagreeing with difficult people, and if they do, they fear significant anger. Or they don’t say anything the first few times, and then snap. I’ve been guilty of this more than once, and you know what, it only succeeds in making us look unreasonable, and it doesn’t give the other person meaningful feedback.
The types of difficult personalities
Let’s take a closer look at some of the kinds of people that might be hard for us to deal with, and some communication tips.
There are four different types of bullies.
Chronic bully: These are usually people who are bullies in every area of their life; they bully people at work or school and in their personal life. Chronic bullies are the hardest to change, but they are responsive to rules, rewards, and punishment.
Opportunistic bully: This is the most common type of bully at work or school. They are different from a chronic bully because they do not bully in other areas of their lives, it’s because at work or school their actions have been rewarded in some way.
Accidental bully: This type of bully is unaware of the effect of their actions. When confronted, they stop, apologize, and don’t do it again.
Substance abuse bully: Most addictive substances make people become more uninhibited and social manners disappear, creating a person who bullies when they’re under the influence.
Ways to communicate with a bully
- Stay positive and focused.
- Stand up for yourself.
- Be firm.
- Make it more personal; use their name and say words like “I believe.”
Complainers are quick to point out problems but rarely try to fix it.
Ways to communicate with a complainer
- Actively listen to their concerns.
- Respond to emotion with goals.
- Ask questions such as “what would you like me to do with this information?”.
- If complainers are highly emotional, try not to react. Instead, say something such as “you sound very upset.”
- Move them from finding imperfections to problem-solving.
The silent type
The silent type doesn’t say much; they respond either “yes” or “no” to questions.
Ways to communicate with the silent type
- Instead of asking closed questions, ask open-ended ones to get more than yes or no.
- Try different kinds of questions to get the answers you need.
- Let them know about your plans and ask them to participate.
The “yes” person
The yes person tells you what they think you want to hear. How do you talk to someone who seems to agree but doesn’t follow through with anything?
Ways to communicate with the yes person
- Try to find out what is truly happening and describe negative consequences.
- Encourage them when they share challenges.
- Show that you’re interested in what they’re saying by nodding and asking questions.
- Get them to commit to something and write it down.
The “no” person
The no person will say no to every request, no matter how small.
Ways to communicate with the no person
- Connect with them by trying to find some common ground.
- Recognize that they have some positive intent.
- Use their thinking to suggest solutions.
- Let them be a part of your plans to get them engaged.
The know-it-all always seems to have a better way of doing things.
How to communicate with the know-it-all
- Have all the facts before you meet.
- Paraphrase what they’re saying.
- Recognize their doubts by using the word “maybe.”
- Focus on their positive intent and not on what they’re saying.
- Ask them to suggest solutions.
- Let them be a part of your plans.
Combination of types
The most challenging of all may be trying to communicate with someone who is a combination of more than one of these personalities.
How to communicate with someone who is a combination of types
As an example, we’ll look at a person who is a know-it-all, just-say-no, bully. Combine styles to match their types.
- Have all your facts upfront and stay firm.
- Connect with them and use “I believe” statements.
- Recognize their positive intent.
There is a common thread that ties communicating with different people together, stay positive and focused. It will go a long way in building healthy relationships.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember:
- Accept that there will be differences.
- Don’t take it personally.
- Understand what’s behind their actions.
- Create and use a plan that will help you work with the person.
Do you have any tips that you’ve used to deal with a difficult person, or that you have noticed have worked on you?