The 3 Keys to Dealing with Difficult People

Key 1:-Realize that every behaviour has a positive intention

When you are dealing with difficult people no matter how destructive and unhelpful they behave there will be some sort of positive intention behind it. It may not be to positively help you but they will have some positive motivation that is driving them to do the things they do. It may be to ‘get the job done’ or to feel a sense of power, self worth, significance or acceptance.

Just knowing that, deep down, they are doing the things they are doing to gain something positive will help you put things into a more useful perspective. It may not appear that way but if you dig deep enough you’ll find it to be true…

There are two basic driving forces inside us all. To move away from pain and to move towards pleasure…As well as physical this includes emotional pain and emotional pleasure.

No matter how a person is behaving these two forces will be involved. For example, say your boss found out that you were late handing in an assignment and he was angry enough to give you a telling off. His away from pain motivation could be the fear of being ‘pulled up’ by his own boss for not running his team. On the flip side his moving towards pleasure motivation could have been to feel a sense of harmony knowing that he is doing his job well and the team are working efficiently.

So every behaviour no matter how negative it appears at first has an element of positive motivation behind it. It might often be concealed but it will be there at some level...

The next time you are speaking with someone who you have struggled to cope with have a think about what their positive intention might be. Ask yourself,

‘If they were after something positive in doing the things they are doing what would that be?’

If you’re struggling to come up with an answer imagine being in their shoes for a few moments…seeing from their eyes, hearing from their ears and behaving the ways they behave.

This will give you some insights about what they are really after…

Key 2:- Deliver a Strong, Clear & Concise Message

There is something powerful about delivering a strong, clear and concise message to someone from a place of calm…

The strange thing is most people think the opposite is true…That by raising your voice and becoming angry, people will listen more to what they’re saying…They may hear you better but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be listening.

To deliver a strong and clear message calmly can sometimes be tough, especially when you’re dealing with someone who really ‘pushes your hot buttons’ so to speak but the more you practice the easier it gets…Soon you’ll reach the stage where you’ll do it automatically even in times where emotions run high...

One of the reasons this approach works so well with people is that it’s the opposite of what most people expect. In our culture there’s an expectation that, when one person isn’t pleased with the way someone else treats them, the solution is for them to get all emotional and raise their voice to let them know how they feel…By keeping calm and telling them that their behaviour is unacceptable you take them by surprise, interrupt their train of thought and, at the same time, convey the attitude that you are in control…This is a powerful position to take and most of the time will produce positive results.

Key 3:- Pace & Re-Direct

So you’ve got yourself under control…you’re cool, calm, collected and you are comfortable delivering your message in a strong yet composed manner. You are also aware that they are only acting in the ways they act because they are really after something positive and, after mentally stepping into their shoes for a few moments, you have a hunch as to what that intention could be. Now it’s time for a bit of subtlety…It’s time to pace and re-direct

When you pace and re-direct you first speak to the person in a way that fits with their world view then offer them new choices that help them get what they want in a way that is more effective than what they are doing already…

There are lots of techniques to help you do this, of which I’ll be sharing with you in later articles. For just now though I’d like to stick with the theme of positive intentions.

Because there will always be some element of positive motivation behind the behaviours people indulge in, a useful approach is to pace this intention and then re-direct by offering them new ways to fulfil it or to show them that you are already doing something that fulfils it.

The key phrases you can use to do this are:

“Well, since your intention is to (their positive intention) Lets explore some ways that we can do that”


“I know your intention is to (their positive intention) so here’s what I’m already doing to make sure that happens”

By stating their intention and then showing them how it is already being fulfilled or how it can be fulfilled, you are demonstrating that you understand their world and are interested in helping them fulfil their aims. It also helps them re-focus on what they really want which can often be clouded by emotion…

To find out more about how you can become supremely confident and skilled around people check out The People's Coach Guide to Social Confidence CD Kit on Digital Download

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