Published On: Tue, Nov 29th, 2011

Getting Along With Difficult People

By: Gerald Sherman

I remember the first job that I had after being honorably discharged from the service. It was working as an inside salesperson for a lamp company. I was hired by the owner, who was also a veteran. What I didn’t realize at the time was that he had a sales manager who did the hiring. Little did I know that the sales manager would resent my presence in the company because he was not involved in the hiring process. He made everything difficult for me. He fought me on every turn and made my life miserable. I started to oppose him and as a result I was fired. The owner apologized and he said the sales manager had the final word.

After that incident, I knew I would meet up with other hard-to-get-along-with folks whether they were my superiors, other employees or acquaintances. I decided that I would try not to let them interfere with my career. These difficult people had a problem with themselves and I would not let their problems become mine. I decided not to overreact. Instead I looked for ways and means to understand who I was dealing with and decide whether I would want to continue the relationship. There is a saying in the retail world that, “The first mark down is the best mark down.” If the relationship is truly unbearable take the mark down and get out, otherwise you may find yourself just hanging around and withering away.

I am certain that everyone sooner or later will have to deal with a difficult person, whether it is in the work place, people we do business with and others that we live with. It is important to try to understand why they act a certain way. What you need to do is to deal with them. The development of your “people skills” will lead to a successful pathway in dealing with these difficult people. Classifying in your mind the type of individual you are dealing with may enable you to manage the situation and overcome the obstacles that you are confronted with. The solution is up to you and what you are willing to give up.

The following are various difficult type people that we encounter and some suggestions of how to deal with them:

• The Controller – They need to be in control of every situation and will become angry and frustrated if things do not go along with what they expect or want. They want things done “my way or the highway!” When it’s not their way, they show their anger and some of them become verbally abusive and downright nasty. Their tendency is to demean the one who is the target of their frustration. Letting them control you will result in you losing your own identity and a loss of confidence in yourself. Most people do not change; only time changes and it could get worse. Decide how much you are willing to accept or keep your eyes open for something else.

• The Bully – They are known for harassing people and criticizing them unjustly. Adults become bullies for several reasons. They like the power they receive from degrading people and that makes them feel important. Many bully because they can get away with it. The best way to cope with this person is to not allow the bully to make you feel bad about yourself. Work hard and maintain a good relationship with your co-workers. Discuss the situation with your superiors and let them know about your work.

• The know it all – They are overconfident, full of themselves, and narrow-minded. When proven wrong they get defensive. Some times it’s best to let them think they know it all and they will expose their arrogance and ignorance for all to see.

• The complainer – Nothing is ever right for them. They will never be satisfied because they feel the whole world is wrong and they are right. Let them complain and ask them how they would solve the problem to make it right. They probably will just walk away from the situation.

• The ‘No’ person – They are pessimistic and will tell you why things will not work out. They are very inflexible and difficult to please. Avoid becoming defensive. Don’t take it personally. Focus on positive solutions. Try the ‘yes but method.’ Agree with them and then show another solution.

• The ‘Yes’ person – They always agree yet they rarely come through. At least you know they will not upset the applecart. Best way to treat them is don’t ask them for their opinion. If you think you don’t want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question.

• The Opportunist – They will use you and take advantage of you to further their end. These people like to get your ideas and use them as their own. Once you experience their actions try your best to stay away from them.

Getting to understand the type of person you are dealing with is vital in business and social relationships. Deciding if you can function in the relationship is a decision that you alone can make. The most important thing is to remember that these difficult people have a problem. Don’t make it yours.

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  1. Ursula Haas says:

    Mr. Sherman,
    Thank you so much for your advise. I do have some problems with my neighbour in Vienna Austria.
    And then I found your interesting articel. It helps me, I know
    Best wishes
    Ursula Haas

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