Ok, so let’s be realistic about things as we get started with this column. Life in all its facets as well as the relationships that go with them aren't always perfect. In fact, I might go so far as to say that they are rarely perfect. Fair enough to say?
Painful as it may be, stop and take a minute to think of some difficult people you may have dealt with or are dealing with now in your life. These may be people you work with, the in-laws that come & surprise you at the door, or that neighbor who just can’t seem to take a hint. For whatever reason, you're just not jiving with these people.
So what do you do? Do you run away like Forrest Gump? Or, do you learn to be flexible and interact?
Anytime you get a group together, the likelihood of someone saying or doing something to piss somebody else off is likely to happen, even in the friendliest of scenarios. When we encounter these extreme personalities that we just can’t deal with very well, it can feel like they are trying to make our life miserable, but more often than not, it’s simply learning about these peoples’ tendencies and how to interact in a more tactful way.
I'll be the first to acknowledge that some conflicts are unavoidable and should never be smoothed over or suppressed, though it’s learning to deal with our differences, and how to understand, resolve, and learn from these interactions that’s important. There’s always a lesson to be learned, regardless of the circumstances or people involved.
Tips to dealing with problem people
- Learn to recognize the different personalities out there
First and foremost, we must develop self-awareness about our own personality tendencies. Are you more aggressive or passive? Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? What does it matter? Well, once we know our personality tendencies we can learn to recognize other peoples’ personalities and adapt and interact in a more effective way. Straight analytical types drive me crazy, but I recognize that in myself and so usually I’m prepared for them when I meet one. Usually.
- Learn how to communicate with those different personality types, once you recognize them.
Dealing with different people requires and approach where treat them the way they want to be treated. Some need more detail and clarity in communication. Some are very direct and just want the facts, and others are more focused on the relationship.
- Watch and learn.
Consider how you communicate verbally and through body language most effectively with these different types of people to build rapport and make them feel understood.
- Know who triggers you and why
I referred to this earlier. I’m told I’m an INTJ on the personality profile scale. A fully functional right and left brain. Still, a full bore analytical will push every button I have, and often. When we know who we tend to have conflict with and what it is that leads us to get frustrated, we can begin to be more proactive. Learn to deal with this person more effectively by managing our own emotions and not be the target of their drama and unrest. Easier said than done, I know.
- Learn to focus on their strengths and positive qualities, rather than dwell on the bad stuff.
A great way to deal with people more effectively in any relationship context is to focus on their positive qualities and to help them accentuate these when you can. Give people compliments, offer them recognition, and help them to use their strengths. We can empower others instead of knocking them down, and by doing so have a more positive influence and interaction. Again, easier said than done, especially with some people.
Just because you apply these ideas doesn’t mean that people will always respond in a positive manner. In truth, the only person you actually have control is yourself, so to make sure that an unhealthy conflict doesn’t ensue work to build these traits.
Managing conflict is being there with:
- Availability: Accept full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, actions, values, and perceptions that you contribute to the conflict.
- Flexibility: Offer a willingness to make some degree of change, so that both people can move toward a joint solution. Compromise may be required.
- Specificity: Seek to focus the conflict of real, significant issues that point toward a practical outcome that is within the range of responsibility. Don’t get personal.
- Clarity: When the message intended and the impact received are nearly the same, communication is achieved. For this to happen, words, tone of voice, facial expression, posture must all be congruent with each other and context with they are said.
Here are some signs of constructive and healthy conflict.
You’ll know you’re on the right track when the following ideas are present. Conflict is constructive when:
- It opens up issues of importance, resulting in their clarification.
- Results in the solution of problems
- Increases the involvement of individuals in issues of importance to them
- Causes authentic communication to occur
- Serves as a release to pent-up negative emotions
- Helps build cohesiveness among people, and allows them to learn about each other
- Helps individuals grow and learn to become better in the future
- We can learn a lot about ourselves and grow as a person when we work through conflict. It can also open up new possibilities and allow us to think differently about our beliefs and expectations.
Developing patience and tact to deal with others more effectively is a skill that can be applied in many areas of life. Hard enough to do, and I speak from experience, but a necessary skill you need to have to prosper in the workplace and develop your ability to connect and influence others in a positive way.
Thanks for reading.