The Strat: Five Steps to Handle Delicate Situations with Difficult People

The Strat
By Valerie Sokolosky

A Reach-certified Personal Brand Strategist offers tips and advice on our favorite topic – personal branding!

Five Steps to Handle Delicate Situations with Difficult People

We’ve all had to deal with those difficult people. Maybe it’s that argumentative coworker, an abusive client, or even a stubborn partner. No matter how tranquil you are, there are always difficult people, so the question becomes, “How can you assert your own rights without creating an incident complete with collateral damage?”

In most cases, conflict arises because people want to be heard, they want to be listened to. They want to feel important or valued or loved, but they just can’t express themselves in a constructive way. They create conflict instead.

Here are five easy steps to help you resolve conflicts with anyone, anywhere, anytime:

1. Be still and say nothing. Let the storm brewing run its course. In many cases, the angry person is itching for a fight. But remember, arguing won’t help anything because it just raises more barriers. Remain calm and let the storm rage itself out.  

2. Let the other person talk. He/she will soon tire of doing all the talking and really…all they want is to be heard and feel important. That’s what we all want, right? Some people at times just express these needs in ways that are counterproductive.  

3. Listen and take time to genuinely consider the other person’s point of view. Here is where you are empathetic. Place yourself in the other person’s shoes. Take the time to look for areas of agreement and build on those, and never, ever say, “You’re wrong.” Instead, find ways to agree and validate the other person. By doing this, you will gradually neutralize the other person’s anger.  

4. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and take responsibility. Don’t hesitate to say, “You’re absolutely right! It’s my fault, and here is what I’ll do to fix it.” Even if you’re NOT wrong, at least give them the benefit of the doubt and say, “I may be wrong. Let’s look at the facts together.” It’s hard to argue with that!  

5. If the situation seems to be heading toward verbal or physical abuse, stop it immediately. You can do this firmly, by calmly saying, “You’re very angry right now, and you really don’t mean the things you’re saying. I’m going to excuse myself now, and we can talk again later.” Then leave the room or ask them to leave.  

Something to consider: Think about how you’ve dealt with difficult people in the past. Were you tempted to prove them wrong, trying to always be right, to save face? Take these steps and realize that all they wanted was—all anybody wants is—to be heard, loved, and validated.

Valerie Sokolosky is an author of 8 books, a speaker and the owner of Valerie and Company, a firm that focuses on people skills through training programs and executive coaching. She contributes regularly to Success Magazine, SW Airlines Spirit Magazine and Dallas Business Journal.

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