How to Deal with Difficult People

Dealing with someone who talks and will not listen:

  1. Sit quietly and let them run out of steam.
  2. Let them know that, while you may not agree with everything they say, you would like to hear their thoughts and then let them continue.
  3. Use interactive listening techniques.
  4. Ask to set an agenda that includes time for both of you to speak.
  5. Change the physical situation to put the focus on you (stand up, pull out a piece of paper, etc.).

Dealing with someone who makes personal attacks:

  1. Ignore the attacks and focus on the issues.
  2. Try to determine if you did anything to upset them and, if so, apologize for the impact of what you have said.
  3. Set ground rules for behaviour.
  4. Name the problematic behaviour and describe how the behaviour is negatively impacting the process.
  5. Bring a third party into the mix to buffer/prevent the behaviour.

Dealing with someone who is stubborn and positional:

  1. Separate the person from the problem and focus on resolving the issues.
  2. Show that you are open to being persuaded by them so that you can understand why their view has merit.
  3. Look for creative ways to accept their position and add in what you need.
  4. Talk about the consequences if they won’t budge and no agreement is reached.
  5. Explore why they are locked in.
  6. Test their position by proposing ideas and, if rejected, ask them why the idea won’t work for them.       Come up with ideas to deal with the concern they reveal.
  7. Present them with good facts that suggest their view might be wrong, and give them time and space to digest that new information.

Dealing with someone who lies or is untrustworthy:

  1. Ask yourself whether the lie is about something important or just puffery.
  2. Ask for proof/third party verification.
  3. Seek verification before relying on their information.
  4. Outline the impact on future interactions if the present discussion is based on lies or misinformation.
  5. Build in a consequence that will occur if they have lied.
  6. Test their information with good probing questions.
  7. Share your own information that contradicts their statements and see what they do in response.
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