Four Ways to Handle Difficult People At Work

Difficult people do exist at work, and sometimes they can be overwhelmingly difficult. They come in all shapes and sizes. If you have ever encountered someone at work who frustrates you enough to make you want to pull your hair, you’re not alone!

Throughout my career, I have encountered a fair share of difficult people: people who don’t respect deadlines, people who prefer to arrive late to meetings or don’t even turn up at all, people who don’t care for any other opinion besides their own, people who procrastinate on responsibilities delegated to them, people who — well, you get the point.

In the process of running my business, I need to collaborate with others on several projects, and there have been times when I had to deal with someone who offers so much resistance that things quickly escalate out of control.

So, what can you do about it? When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I would frequently end up getting frustrated and worked up in such situations. I would wonder, “Why is it so difficult getting this person to see things the way I do?” or “What did I ever do to have to put up with them?” or “Why are they so irresponsible!”

But after a while, the realization dawned on me that such people are everywhere. Whatever you do, you will always run into someone who is determined to make things difficult for you. So, rather than taking a drastic decision each time you encounter someone like that, why not arm yourself with the right skills to deal with them?

Here are four things to help you work around any situation with a difficult person:

Follow The S.T.O.P. Model To Prevent Conflicts

A common reaction to a difficult situation is to lead yourself into a conflict — something you should avoid at all costs. One trait great entrepreneurs have is their ability to negotiate conflicts. Try the S.T.O.P. method:

Step back: If you feel you are being drawn in a conflict, stop. Take a step back and analyze the situation. When putting up with difficult people at work, it’s important to remember that the other person is simply trying to do their best from their own scale of consciousness. Therefore, try not to judge them by their behavior. Most, if not all, are simply trying to make a choice that seems to be the best thing they could offer in the current moment.

Take a deep breath: It will calm your brain. There is a good reason people often advise you to take a deep breath when you are stressed. Controlling your breath can help you manage stress much more effectively. Slowing down your breathing has a calming effect on the brain.

Organize: Organize your thoughts and try to get your focus back on the task at hand. A conflict will not only waste precious time but also take your mind off of important things. Chances are, you will make a rash decision in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later. If you succumb to the slew of negative thoughts running through your head, your mind becomes more prone to making rash decisions. A peaceful mind is much more effective than one during a conflict.

Proceed with kindness and understanding: You will never stop running into people who make life difficult for you until you have thoroughly trained yourself in the art of compassion. Disliking someone is just an emotion, and you’re not bad for having negative thoughts. Just don’t let it generate loads of negativity.

While most of us tend to be accommodating and nice to other people (to some extent because underlying this niceness is the need to be free from conflict), you shouldn’t feel obligated put up with rudeness. Being assertive requires you to take full responsibility for your actions. Decide how far is too far and what you are willing (or unwilling) to accept from others. Set those boundaries and stick to them. This is not to suggest you give someone complete leeway. But draw a line mentally and do not let the other person cross it.

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