The Art of Change Skills for Life

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Dealing With Difficult People – Turning The Table On Meddlers

April 17, 2009 Dealing with Difficult People Persuasion 3

meddlercolorWe’re talking about meddling meddlers and the people they meddle with.  And in this post, we’ll consider an option for dealing with these difficult people that stand a chance of bringing about positive change. 

Consider It A Gift

When a meddler meddles, instead of fighting the behavior or trying to correct it, appreciate the good intention behind it.  

Yes, I know, easier to say than it is to do.  It’s a trick of the mind, and that’s a hard trick to pull off when it’s your mind playing trics on you.  But here’s the thing.  This is what to do if you care about the person meddling, and just don’t care for the meddling.  If you care about them, then better that they should care about you than to care less about you, right?  If you considered that it was a gift, what would you say?  You’d say, “Thank you for caring.”  And that’s just the right tone to connect with someone who is minding your business instead of their own.  

Consider the experience of my client, Chet.  He worked in a hand-crafted furniture store.  His manager’s name was Peter.  And Peter just couldn’t stop meddling.   He would give Chet his assignment for the day, and then Chet would give it his all.  But before Chet could finish or even come close, there was Peter, standing over him and directing him, cautioning him, and getting in his way.  

While just about everything in Chet wanted to yell, ‘Dude, back off!’ some small part of him had the wisdom to do the counter-intuitive thing.  He decided to treat this interference as a gift, and let himself receive it.  He said, “Peter, thanks for caring so much about the quality of my work, and for wanting to help me out.   You obviously know a lot about this, and I’m guessing you’re here because you’re not confident in my ability to do this.  I’m sure if you were sure, you’d leave me to do it.  So here, please, go ahead.  Show me how to do it the way you think it should be done.”  Chet  pushed the tools he had in hand toward Peter. “You do it and let me watch and learn.  And when you think I’m ready to do it on my own, I’ll know because you will stand back, stay away, and let me do my work.” 

Peter look confused.  The tools were waving in front of him, waiting for him to take them up and take this on.  Now he had to decide if he really wanted to do Chet’s work.  And really, he didn’t!  So he stepped back.  And just like that, the tables had turned.  Peter said, “Thanks, but, uh,  you go ahead.  Let’s see what you can do on your own.”  And he walked away.  Chet had given Peter a way to be involved, by not interfering.

Cool, huh?  Maybe some time you’ll try this, and get back to me with some comments?  I’ll be back with more in a couple of days!

Be well,

Rick

 

3 Responses

  1. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m a fan of counter-intuitive things that get results.

    I think a big part of why this works is it’s easier to rip something apart than create a strawman. I think it also works because when you hand the reigns over, you’re getting somebody to “own” and feel the experience. Then you get to be the back seat driver 😉

    One of my favorite sayings is “show me how.” Whenever somebody was quick to give advice, my response would be “show me how” and put them to the test.

    It’s a reminder of how much roles and perspective make a difference. Are you the coach, the critic, the student, the backseat driver, … etc.

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