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How to Deal With Difficult People

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Whether it’s a toxic workplace, a tough relationship, or the increasingly divided political spectrum, it seems like it can be impossible to see progress in difficult relationships. We can’t control the circumstances around us, but we can indirectly influence them by the way we treat the most challenging people in our lives. 

It’s important to not write off the strenuous people around you. You might be able to justify it; like how someone may be rude to you or not appreciate what you do; maybe they always say negative things. But we’ll never be able to get away from it. We will always face these challenges. The trick is to not run away from difficult people but to learn how to interact with them and influence those relationships for the better.

When we learn to deal with difficult people, we live better lives. At work, we’re more likely to be productive and innovative with our co-workers and bosses. In our relationships, we see progress, set positive boundaries, and find a fulfilling purpose in our interactions. 

If we focus on the following core principles, we can improve our relationships with difficult personalities.

1. Listen, Then Wait

It’s easy to identify the things that frustrate us about someone. It’s much harder to understand who they are and why they act as they do. The latter approach gives a future and hope for progress when dealing with people.

The best is to learn as much as possible about the person by asking them questions. When you identify a subject or interest they are passionate about, continue to feed the conversation and encourage them to say more. When we practice this social habit, we connect with the people we talk to. We show respect and signify that they matter. 

When we listen, we listen patiently. As the other party approaches the end of the conversation, if they feel like you connected with them, they’ll more than likely invite your input. Since you gave them undivided attention, you are now credible in their eyes and what you say carries more weight. This is when you can add value to the conversation and begin to influence the person.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

2. Reinforce Your Relationship

Listening opens the door for us. Once the person trusts us, we can begin to establish and redefine the relationship. When you speak positive and encouraging things into their life, they will begin to receive it.

Tell that person how much you admire or enjoy them. Be specific through your communication. You can talk about talent, a recent accomplishment, or something that has gone unnoticed. The most impactful thing you can do is compliment something about their character. 

We often think bad about ourselves. When we speak life into someone that’s irrelevant to their output, but to who they are as a person, they will appreciate it and remember it forever. 

An effective way to reinforce your relationship is when you happen to be in the other person’s environment or arena. Some of the best interviews are done when the guest makes sure to praise the host by referencing their book or a piece of work they did in the past throughout the context of the interview. They often get invited back and the host has a positive impression (even if they completely disagree on the subject). When we honor difficult people in places that they value the most, we show appreciation and respect.

3. Understand the Person

The primary reason we may see someone as “difficult” is that we lack context. A friend of mine had a hard time seeing progress in his relationship with his grandfather. His grandpa was rude, showed little affection, and always made things more difficult. He finally started listening to his story. 

His grandfather’s mother died in childbirth the day he was born. One of his younger siblings died partially of his fault by not keeping an eye on him. He lived through the Great Depression and was a refugee. It wasn’t until my friend understood what his grandfather went through, that he could look beyond small offenses and appreciated his relationship. While there is no excuse to let someone treat you badly, you can at least guide that person and influence them once you know their story.

Ask yourself about that person, “What drives them? What motivates them? Why are they the way that they are?” Once we can answer those questions, we can begin to repair and understand the relationship. We know how to communicate with them.

“To be interesting, be interested.” – Dale Carnegie

4. Make Progress

Not every relationship can be repaired or reach optimal health, but we can do our best to make it functional and respectful. When we switch our goal from avoiding someone to making progress, we are more likely to see positive results. 

This does not mean we should take on toxic or harmful relationships, but it does mean we should consider making progress with the people that are in our lives and tough to be around with.

When we follow these steps, we soon find common ground. We’ve learned from them and have developed an authentic relationship. This progress gives us room to establish healthy growth, respectful boundaries, and a better experience. 

How do you deal with difficult people? Share your tactics and experiences with us below!

John Paul Hernandez is a copywriter and business strategist that provides value to companies and their customers through ReadySetCopy.com. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him in Little Havana leaning by a ventanita, sipping his cafecito. You can follow him on Twitter @TeamJohnH.

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