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August 2002 - Dealing with Difficult People

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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August 2002

Dealing with Difficult People

I often teach seminars on how to deal with difficult people. In such sessions I usually focus on different types of difficult people such as Negative Thinkers, Arguers, Change-Avoiders, Cutups, or Snipers. Here are five observations about dealing with all types of difficult people.

  1. Decide whether your goal is to change them or deal with them. Changing someone else is often unrealistic. While you can offer incentives for change, you canít actually change someone else. If you donít believe this is true, talk to people who have been married a long time. Someone once said," women marry men hoping they can be changed; men marry women hoping they wonít change. Both are usually disappointed."
  2. Some people will not respond to your efforts to get along with them. It seems like no matter what you do, they wonít cooperate. But you may still have to live with them or work with them. Letís face it. Some folks seem to enjoy being difficult. Perhaps it brings them recognition or makes them feel important. Or perhaps itís just a deep habit that they seem powerless to change.
  3. Donít let their bad habits rub off on you. We often become like those we are with. When children do bad things, parents often blame their friends or playmates. Of course, parents are often blind to the fact that children may be emulating them. People often behave like those around them. Perhaps this is why we donít like some things we see in other people. They remind us of ourselves. Habits can be contagious.
  4. People may accuse you of their problem. This naÔve and often unconscious attribution of oneís own feelings, attitudes, or desires to others is called "projection." Whether conscious or unconscious, it "gets the monkey off our back" when we attribute our shortfalls to others. Donít let others do this to you, and donít do it to others. Projection disrupts interpersonal relationships.
  5. Finally, it is quite possible that some folks may consider you to be a difficult person. And they may be right. But take heart. While you canít change others and they canít change you, you can change yourself. If we are difficult, itís good to change.

So take a hard look at yourself and those around you. Learn how to deal with the difficult ones. And make sure youíre not the difficult one others have to deal with.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
jkline@klinespeak.com


August 2002 - Dealing with Difficult People
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