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Whether you’re dealing with a rude customer, an unfair neighbor, or a demanding boss, it can be hard to know how to deal with difficult people. Here are some strategies you can employ to reduce your stress and increase the likelihood that you’ll leave the situation feeling okay.
1. Listen to What They Have to Say
Often, a willingness to listen can go a long way when you’re wondering how to deal with difficult people. Allow difficult people to share their opinion. Show that you’re willing to listen by making eye contact, asking questions, and showing an interest in what they have to say.
2. Place a Time Limit on How Long They Can Vent
Listening, however, doesn’t mean you have to listen for hours on end. Instead, place a time limit on how long you’re willing to listen to difficult people vent. Allowing them to repeat themselves over and over isn’t likely to be helpful in diffusing the situation.
Make it clear that you’ve heard what they have to say and that you don’t want to be subjected to hearing all their complaints over and over. Instead, try to move the conversation forward in a direct, yet polite manner.
3. Don’t Simply Agree with Everything They Say
Don’t simply nod in agreement to everything difficult people say. Otherwise, they’ll think you’re on the same page. Instead, be willing to say that you disagree, but do so in a respectful manner.
4. Speak Up to Share Your Point of View
It’s important to speak up at a fairly early point in the conversation to make it clear that you share a different point of view. Avoid interrupting, but instead, find a break in the conversation to say, “This is the way I see it.” Then explain your point.
5. Stick to the Facts
Learning how to deal with difficult people often means sticking to the facts. Avoid saying subjective things such as, “You shouldn’t have…” or “That was way out of line.” Instead, state the facts and remain as objective as possible about the order of events.
6. Work the Solution
Avoid focusing on the problem for too long. There’s no need to place blame, rehash over and over why it was wrong, or just repeatedly point out the negative. Take responsibility for your behavior and then direct the conversation toward a solution.
Suggest several possible ways to solve the problem. Invite difficult people to do the same. Try to look for a solution that everyone can agree on.
7. Behave Respectfully
No matter how difficult the conversation gets, maintain respectful behavior at all times. You can’t control how the other person behaves or reacts, but you can control your own behavior. Leave the conversation being able to hold your head high, knowing you conducted yourself in the most professional manner possible.
8. Agree to Disagree
Sometimes you won’t be able to agree on a solution and it makes sense to simply agree to disagree. If you’re both on opposite sides of the fence and neither of you are interested in changing your minds, there’s no need to waste time trying to convince one another to think differently.
9. Don’t Cave to Every Demand
Just because difficult people become demanding or aggressive, doesn’t mean you need to do what they say. In fact, giving in can reinforce their tactics. Be willing to say no when difficult people make unreasonable demands.
10. End the Conversation if Necessary
If the conversation gets ugly, be prepared to end it. Don’t allow someone to become threatening or verbally abusive. Instead, make it clear you aren’t willing to hold conversations with people who treat you in a disrespectful manner.