The Art of Change Skills for Life

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Dealing with Difficult People: A Different Approach

March 17, 2008 Dealing with Difficult People 2

Group Work 

 A recent article in the Indianapolis Star about how dealing with difficult people builds character started me thinking about the subject.  The article suggests taking the high road and reminded me of a different way to look at the subject of dealing with difficult people.  Here are some ideas to help you to achieve positive change, if you find yourself faced with this challenge.

Dealing effectively with difficult people is a subject I have studied, conducted over a thousand interviews on, and co-authored a book, titled Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at their Worst.
 
In my private practice I work with a number of people who’ve chosen to stop feeling like victims and turn challenging relationships around.  Here are some thoughts, based on the above mentioned article: 

Being Nice To People Who Aren’t Is a Waste of Time and Energy

Taking the high road is one way of describing the necessary attitude adjustments before dealing with people.  But you still get to deal with them.  And that’s where making a behavioral adjustment is essential.  Being nice to people who aren’t is a waste of time and energy.  Nice works great with nice people.  With everyone else, it’s irrelevant.   Our relationships happen through us, not to us, and if you don’t like the results you’re getting in a particular relationship, change what you’re doing with that person to get a different result.  And if you don’t succeed, try something else. 

To Be More Effective, Take the Initiative

Fact is, people behave badly because when they are stressed out and lack resources.  But doing nothing more than accepting their difficult behavior leaves the problem in place for the next person.  Better, I think, to be effective, by making appropriate choices based on what’s likely to work.  It isn’t that hard to learn to do.  You just have to be willing to take the initiative. 

Finding Resources within Yourself

One last point. I find it far more useful to assume good intent behind bad behavior, than to assume bad intent or that the person is resistant to change.  Life has a funny way of allowing our assumptions to turn into self fulfilling prophecies.  If you base your own behavior on a useful assumption about the behavior of others, you just might find the resources in yourself to turn bad to good and good to great. 

Let me know what has worked (or not worked) for you when dealing with difficult people.

Be well,

Dr. Rick

Related Posts:

1. How to Master the Art of Healthy Communication

2. Are You a Change Artist?

2 Responses

  1. Guest says:

    How exactly do you do it? The assumptions turned to reality prophesies are my nemesis.

    N

    UK

  2. Dr. K says:

    Thanks for your question and comment.
    My advice is to start with some positive assumptions about people in general, get some practice at that, then work your way to more specific ones about specific people. For example (and one of my favorites) is that people do the best they can with the limited resources they have on board.
    best wishes,
    Rick

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