As December ends and January begins, how will you mark the transition to a new year? Many of us “celebrate the New Year.” We mark those celebrations with parties and toasts to the upcoming year. The more serious of develop plans, otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions. And all of us hope that the next 12 months are going to be special. Looking at these New Year rituals through the eyes of an anthropologist, something strikes me. These celebrations are all about looking forward and leaving the past 12 months behind.
Handling difficult people means interrupting their game-playing. Learn to recognise the games commonly used by people in fight, flight and spite mode. This sets you up to address the game successfully and alter the difficult behaviour as quickly as possible.
If you’ve studied problem-solving or decision-making, you’ve probably been told to take a logical approach. This means that what I’m about to propose might seem controversial. After teaching solution-focused thinking techniques for over 20 years, I’ve noticed there are three key ways logical thinking can hold people back when tackling tough issues. I call these the downsides of logic.
Telling someone they’re wrong can be a politically risky move. Imagine, for example, explaining to your boss that he’s just made an unethical decision, or imagine telling your key client, as a small business owner, that the course of action they’re committed to is based on faulty assumptions. At an even simpler level, imagine needing to correct an erroneous fact your colleague has just presented to a senior management group during an important meeting.
What’s the first thing you should do when you’re verbally attacked? It’s not defending yourself, even though this is the instinctive reaction which drives most people. If you want to shift the power dynamic and take control of the situation, you need to work smarter. You need to ask questions instead of rebutting what has just been said.
“I just say it like it is.” “I’m just telling the truth.” “I don’t suffer fools gladly.”
These are all lines I hear regularly in my courses on dealing with difficult people. Invariably the speaker is someone who has been “sent” to the course and is coming across as aggressive and hostile in the workplace. These people claim they are simply being direct and expressing what they think. In reality, though, they are using so-called honesty as a weapon. Their direct, frank approach invades others’ personal boundaries and creates an attacking tone, which colours their feedback.
Energy vampires, mood bombers, confidence wreckers; they all have one thing in common. They’re chronically negative and a toxic influence on workplace team dynamics. Sadly, people with negative mind-sets often set the tone for the entire team. They’re the ones who speak up first and loudest. They’re the ones who find problems for every solution. And they’re the ones who always seem to have the last word. In a perfect world, you’d be able to avoid dealing with chronically negative people. In reality, though, you’re likely to be exposed to them on a daily basis. If you work in customer service, for example, your job will involve handling complaints and dealing with angry or upset people. Or it could simply be that you’re sitting next to a cynical and negative colleague. Or perhaps your boss is burnt out and exhausted and it’s obvious to everyone.
Difficult people invade your boundaries play psychological games. In doing so, they use predictable verbal attack patterns. Learn to respond to verbal attacks calmly and assertively, by using 3 critical rules of verbal self-defense by watching this video.
You thought you were going to a simple catch-up meeting with your boss; instead you ended up feeling like a naughty child. Although the meeting started well, halfway through your boss became aggressive and critical. You’re still not even sure what the main problem was. However, you definitely know you’re in the bad books. This scene is typical of what happens during psychological game playing at work.
Have you ever felt uneasy, anxious, or just plain at the end of a conversation with a difficult person? Chances are you were dealing with a boundary invader. This is someone who invades your psychological space in a way that makes you feel violated or uncomfortable.