Difficult people (and how to handle them)

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We all encounter difficult people or situations that leave us frustrated, especially as we’re trying to get more done with fewer resources. Fortunately, you get to choose how you want to show up regardless of how others show up. Keeping this in mind can ground you and keep you centered when you need it most.

Let’s look at six common situations you might find yourself in with difficult people and some communication strategies for handling them. Customize your response for the situation at hand, but look at the intent of each suggested response below to help you find the words that work for you.

The Naysayer

Behavior: Always tells you why your ideas can’t work.

How to respond: “I understand your concerns and appreciate your perspective. What would it take to make this idea work?”

The Complainer

Behavior: Has a knack for seeing the glass as half empty and complaining instead of resolving the problem.

How to respond: “Take five minutes to vent so you can get it all out, and then let’s focus on finding a solution.” (Note: You may want to actually time it or look at your watch so you can convey that you’re serious about it.)

The Derailer

Behavior: Finds ways to distract others from the core issue at hand.

How to respond: “I appreciate your comment. Just so I’m clear, please help me understand how it ties to what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The Person Lost in the Weeds

Behavior: Gets bogged down in details and loses sight of what’s really important.

How to respond: “Let’s take a look at the bigger picture to make sure we’re considering the ‘what’ before we get into the ‘how,’ and that we’re meeting our objectives.”

The “Yes” Person

Behavior: Creates a bottleneck by taking on too much and getting overwhelmed.

How to respond: “If you take on this work, how much time will it entail? How does that fit in with other priorities you already have? What support might you need?”

The Master Delegator

Behavior: Keeps sending things your way without considering your existing workload.

How to respond: “I understand that you want me to complete this additional project. How important is this relative to other things I am working on? What would you like me to put lower on the priority list, or push out further, to create capacity for this?”

Keep these communication strategies in mind as you go about your week — I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to use at least one.

Blog Author Bio

Neena Newberry is president of Newberry Executive Solutions. A former Deloitte executive, she is an executive coach who helps women "think and play big."

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