Navigating Difficult People with Grace and Ease

EVERYONE deals with someone that they don’t like in the workplace from time to time. For some, it’s all the time. Whether it be the client who always has an “emergency,” the boss who is on a mood swing pendulum, or the colleague who is making a career out of self-promotion, these relationships can raise our blood pressure while simultaneously zapping our energy. If we let them.

Early on in my career, I had a colleague who I’ll call Fred.  Fred monopolized every meeting and promoted his “good works” incessantly. Also, he always had stains on his shirt, and for some odd reason, carried his printer EVERYWHERE (or so it seemed). I have no idea why. What I did know is that this confluence of personality traits and attributes ANNOYED ME TO NO END. What I didn’t realize was that I was making a hobby of being irritated by him, and, in so doing, was wasting precious energy.

In dealing with difficult people, we do our best when we remember that we can’t control the other person’s behaviors. We CAN control how WE show up and how WE respond.

Some tips for making it better:

1.       DON’T PROJECT—take the Fred example. When Fred would sent me an email, I was annoyed before I even opened the message. If you find yourself assuming a message from (INSERT NAME HERE) means “more work,” “bad news,” or the like, stop yourself. You are projecting. It could be a message that says “thanks for the help” or “happy birthday.” You can’t know until you open the message, so don’t waste energy getting annoyed.

2.       SHOW UP FROM A PLACE OF NEUTRAL—if you have a meeting or engagement with this person, get your head in a neutral state before you do so. Whether it’s a quick meditation, reading something that makes you laugh, or just taking a couple of moments to BREATHE, do it. And don’t tell yourself that you don’t have time. If you needed the bathroom first, you’d take time for that, right?

3.       THINK OF 3 POSITIVE THINGS ABOUT THE PERSON—empathy is a powerful tool. If you find your blood pressure beginning to rise, try this. You will feel yourself calm down immediately, and you’ll be in a much place to interact.

4.       LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND—on some level, you have some common goals, yes? You may not agree on the best way to get there, but remembering the end goal will help you to weed through.

5.       “THANK YOU, FOR YOU ARE MY TEACHER.” I learned this from my own coach, Regan. It has served me very well in the most trying of moments. If nothing else, the difficult person is teaching you what you DON’T want to do. Or be. And that is a reason to feel gratitude.