How to Bring Out the Best in People At Their Worst!: Wishy Washy People & The Sniper Attack

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How to Bring Out the Best in People At Their Worst!: Wishy Washy People & The Sniper Attack

April 4, 2008 Dealing with Difficult People 2

This is the final segment of a 3-part series, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst.  In part 1, we covered how two key steps (1) strenghening your skills in The Art of Communication and (2) changing your attitude can help you to stop suffering.  Then you can learn to look, think and feel differently about difficult behavior.  Read the complete post here.

In part 2, we looked at Negative People.  One approach I recommend that is successful with negative people who often generalize is to persist in asking for details.  Keep asking for the details of what they object to until they state it as a positive direction.  We talked about strategies to use in order to shift their focus from the vague to the specific.  This complete second post is here.

Today I’d like to talk about two more types of difficult people.  Maybe you know a few of these:  The Sniper Attack and Wishy Washy People.

The Sniper Attack

There are times when a control seeking person can’t control a situation.  Or they may have to deal with someone else in control.  Then he or she may resort to rude comments, insults, hidden behind humor, or gossip and insults delivered behind your back.  But hidden behavior is impossible if there’s nowhere to hide.  Your goal is to bring snipers out into the open.

To bring a hidden agenda or grudge to the surface, try repeating the nasty remark and then ask for relevance.  For example, “What does that have to do with this?” or for intent, as in “What are you really trying to say?”.

If they decide to answer your question, listen, and help them to express their grievance fully.  But if they deny having a grudge or agenda, let it go.  You’ve done your job, because they now know there is no where to hide.  In time, they’ll come to know that you’re going to expose their bad behavior every time they engage in it.

Wishy Washy People

Vague people avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs, even if that means saying what they think you want to hear.  These vague people also put off decisions because they don’t want to risk hurting or upsetting anyone by telling an uncomfortable truth.  Your goal, obviously, is to get them to make decisions and keep commitments.  Your starting point is making honesty safe.

Emotion blocks logic. By making it safe to be honest, you can bring conflicts to the surface.  Then you can help vague people think clearly enough to sort out their choices and make their decisions.   There is hope if you are willing to invest the time and the patience to guide people safely a few times, through a process of clear thinking.

In time, they will become dependable members of your team.   Team members who would never dream of dropping the ball or letting you down.  Now that’s positive change!

Let me know how these strategies work for you when dealing with people at their worst.  Or if you have other methods–I’d like very much to hear them.  Use the comments section below.

Keep in mind:  Change is inevitable, but progress is not.  Discover how you make the difference.

Have a great weekend.

Dr. Rick

Related posts:

1. Are You a Change Artist?
2. Steps to Building Workplace Trust


2 Responses

  1. jen says:

    I know you wrote this some time ago but I was wondering what do I do if I’m the sniper or the wishy washy person. I was recently involved in an incedent at work that I found it very hard to do something with the person I was working with because it was disorganized and inefficient for the two of us to do it the way she was doing it. I tried to suggest a better way but was met with this person saying she couldn’t do it a different way. I ended up attacking her (albeit in a joking manner) by critisizing her method which then lead to a very unpleasant staff meeting.

    • hi jen, thanks for posting a comment. I’m glad you’re looking at older posts!

      Don’t know what to say, because I don’t know your desired outcome. I can tell you that my basic rule for future action is to base what you do on what you want to happen (for yourself and with that person), and if you don’t know, identify that first before taking any further action. I assume you understand the distinction between knowing what you want and knowing what you don’t want. (*If all you know is what you don’t want, you will get more of it)

      My basic rule for past mistakes is learn everything you can from them.

      For example, you could learn that expressing your frustration is not effective. And offering a ‘better way’ was not effective.

      Trying a better way might have been. You could have found out how she was approaching the task that made her so inefficient and disorganized, or what she intended in the way she came at it, found out what mattered to her and then helped her get what she wanted as a way of getting what you wanted.

      Sniping as you described it is what people do when they are angry and suppressing it. Better to vent it safely elsewhere, then line up your persuasion proposition.

      A friend of mine put it this way. Persuasion, the alternative to insulting people.

      best wishes,

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