Dealing with Difficult People at Work by Choosing Your Battles Very Well
Dealing with difficult people at work and in other personal situations is not an easy experience. Most often I’m asked, when facilitating workshops on dealing with difficult people at work, the following question – how can I be assertive all the time to deal with difficult people?
WHO SAID YOU NEED TO BE ASSERTIVE ALL THE TIME
I then always answer with the following question back – who said you that you must be assertive all the time? Almost all the workshop participants look bewildered by the question. However, most people’s responses are always really similar as they explain: “I’m not really sure who told me but I thought that this is what you have to do, be assertive all of the time and with everybody”.
ASSERTION IN DEALING WITH OTHER PEOPLE AT WORK
Well, here is the problem with that method. Every individual you deal with is unique. You don’t react precisely the same in every situation and with everybody. People diverge greatly in their behavior, their reactions and their responses to you. Now you are able to develop a range of strategies to deal with the general reactions of other people on numerous occasions. But responding the same way to every situation, whether that’s always aggressively, or always assertively, or always passively isn’t the most effective method.
REACTING THE SAME WAY DOES NOT WORK WITH EVERYONE
I’ve worked with difficult people who have reacted aggressively to every conflict and disagreement they’ve had with other people. It has caused them so many problems in their lives. These aggressive people responded in the same aggressive way to family, friends, employers, strangers, authority figures and more. I’ve worked with other people who have reacted passively to every conflict and disagreement they have had with others. It’s destroyed their confidence, self-esteem and belief in themselves.
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE AT WORK AND IN OTHER SITUATIONS
For sure being assertive can be an efficient approach in dealing with the difficult behavior of others but not always. Take the case of a possible road rage situation. When driving on a double lane highway, you accidentally cut in front of some other driver when changing lanes. The other driver blows their car horn, shakes their fist at you and then moves to the other lane and drives up alongside you, hollering at you out of their car window. What do you do? Is this the time to be aggressive in return? Is this the time to be assertive? Or is this the time to react passively? You don’t know this person but you can assume that your own aggressive actions will in all likelihood stir up the situation. This situation has the potential to escalate into an even more aggressive reaction from the other driver.
THE CONCEPT TO AVOID CONFLICT
Do you see that the most effective reaction in this situation is a passive one. Consider slowing down, pulling back, making no eye contact with the other driver. This might not always work but your objective is to reduce the likelihood of intensifying the situation into an out of control road rage incident. Why? Because you actually have no idea how aggressive the other driver can become, they are a stranger to you and ultimately you can’t predict their behavior. You’ve no behavior history with them. Unlike people you may know, you’ve no knowledge of how this person reacts in conflict situations other than what you’ve already seen and it wasn’t looking very good at all.
CHOOSING BATTLES IN DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE AT WORK
So here’s the most crucial method you can employ in dealing with the difficult people at work and in your personal life, you must choose your battles wisely. You must choose what battles are to be left alone and what battles are to be responded to assertively. There are times when you must decide to take a stand and other times when you should just let it go and let it flow by you. There are times to be assertive with other people, there are times to ignore their behavior and there are times to take another course of action.
MANAGING PEOPLE AND DEALING WITH PEOPLE
You will meet hostile people, angry people, rude people, irate people and more at both work and in your personal life. You don’t and shouldn’t respond just the same way in every situation when dealing with difficult people at work or outside. So consider carefully how important this battle is to you and choose your responses wisely, being assertive is one way, but not the only way.
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© Dr Judy Esmond. This article may be shared with others on the understanding that it remains intact and credit is given to the author and included is the live the website link http://www.dealingwithdiffcultpeople.com for this article on dealing with difficult people at work.