Dealing with Difficult Problem People
The Red and Blue Approach
Erratic behavior is a powerful weapon because it defies accurate
Often, the behavior comes as a surprise even to the person
Seemingly out of the blue
• Some people go to extraordinary lengths to be
difficult. Think of the diva actress whose on-set
needs can never be met or the boss who keeps
moving the goal posts. The difficult person
elevates the deliberate provocation to an art form.
The underlying message is often, "Unless you
agree with me and go along, you'll regret it."
• One clue that a person is attempting to
intimidate or manipulate you is the use of
unpredictable, or protean, behavior—acts that
are random and seemingly out of the blue.
Why yes we are in work environment but we to
have our limits
• I know it’s not easy, if it was easy, there wouldn’t
be difficult or negative people to begin with.
Why Bother Controlling Our Responses?
• One of my favorite sayings is “Holding a grudge
against someone is like drinking poison and
expecting the other person to die.” The only
person we hurt is ourselves.
Charge! Warrior or Wimp
Or Knight and Peacekeeper
• We usually regret having charged into battle—or at
least we wonder what we were thinking. And that's
just it: We weren't thinking. An emotional reaction
bypasses thoughtful deliberation. No rational person
today would engage in an argument with a random
person on the street. But if someone bumps into us,
blocks our way or otherwise wants to hassle us, our
immediate inclination is to freeze, fight or flee.
Similarly, our immediate response to the verbal slights
or manipulative barbs of a difficult person is often to
fight back. Your immediate reaction is, "I can't stand
this crazy, insulting behavior."
The Statement holds Strength
You – Them - Us
It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
• I’ve learned that when people initiate
negativity, it is a reflection of their
inner state expressed externally and
you just happen to be in front of that
expression. It’s not personal, so why do
we take it personally? In short: Because
our ego likes problems and conflict.
Ego, the Id and the Super Id
Battle of the Ego
• When we respond
impulsively, it is a natural
and honest response.
However, is it the smart
thing to do? What can be
resolved by doing so? The
answer: Nothing. It does
however feed our ego’s
need for conflict.
Go sock your head
Anger Feeds Anger. Negativity Feeds Negativity.
• Rarely can any good come out of reacting
against someone who is in a negative state. It
will only trigger anger and an additional
reactive response from that person. If we do
respond impulsively, we’ll have invested
energy in the defending of ourselves and we’ll
feel more psychologically compelled to defend
ourselves going forward.
Five minutes in life I will not get back!
Waste of Energy
• Where attention goes,
energy flows. What
we focus on tends to
expand itself. Since
we can only focus on
one thing at a time,
energy spent on
negativity is energy
that could have been
spent on our
He said She said WHAT!
• I’ve found that once I allow negativity in one area
of my life, it starts to subtly bleed into other
areas as well. When we are in a negative state or
holding a grudge against someone, we don’t feel
very good. We carry that energy with us as we go
about our day. When we don’t feel very good, we
lose sight of clarity and may react unconsciously
to matters in other areas of our lives,
I have the RIGHT, so!
Freedom of Speech
• People are as entitled to their opinions as you are.
Allow them to express how they feel and let it be.
Remember that it’s all relative and a matter of
perspective. What we consider positive can be
perceived by another as negative. When we react,
it becomes me-versus-you, who is right?
• They have the right to express their own opinions
and we have the right and will power to choose
our responses. We can choose peace or we can
No Headache No Problem
Accept the situation. Impossible people exist;
there isn't a thing you can do about it. The first
step is all about facing reality: if you think you
might be dealing with an impossible person,
you're probably right. When in doubt, proceed
as instructed below. The headaches you save
will be your own
Remember to "detach, disassociate
– Detach: Staying calm in the heat of the moment is paramount
to your personal preservation. Spitting angry words, reacting
with extreme emotions such as crying, will only stimulate them
to do more of the difficult behavior.
– Disassociate: Remove yourself from the situation and treat it
with indifference. Do not, under any circumstances bad talk to
their face or to anyone else because then you are sinking down
to their level. Add something positive by redirection such as by
focusing on something, anything, positive in the situation or in
the conversation. Whatever you do just stay calm!
– Diffuse: It can help to realize that the side of a conversation
that contains the most truth will always win out, and it's best to
"name the game" that an impossible person is playing, usually
by asking them or the group a question that starts "Why...,"
(rephrasing their "impossible" position to illuminate the
But thoughts do cross your mind
Guard against anger. If it helps, consider the fact that your anger is actually a precious gift to
the impossible person. Anything you do or say while angry will be used against you over and
over again. Impossible people tend to have amazing memories, and they will not hesitate to
use a nearly endless laundry list of complaints from the past against you.
Be the Manager not the Managed
Be a manager. Until it is over, your task in the
relationship is to manage the impossible person, so that
he or she deals less damage to you.
– As a manager, your best resources are silence (it really is
golden in some cases such as this), humoring the other,
and abandoning all hope of "fixing" the impossible person.
Impossible people do not listen to reason. They can't (and
even if they could, they wouldn't).
– Recognize that you can't convince them that they have any
responsibility for the problems between you. They don't
recognize (or if they did, wouldn't try to improve) their
flaws for a very logical reason; they don't have any flaws.
Oil and Water or Gas and Matches
• Consider that it might be a
question of compatibility.
Sometimes, a person who gets
along with everybody else quite
well is an impossible person for
you personally. Most
relationships between people
contain many shades of gray,
but some people simply mix as
well as oil and water.
Allow others to save Face
Staying Rational When Confronting the Difficult Person
Protect your self-esteem.
• If you have regular dealings
with someone who tries to
portray you as the source of all
evil, you need to take active
steps to maintain a positive
– Remind yourself that this
person's opinion is not
necessarily the truth.
Understand that oftentimes,
impossible people are
Not a necessity
• We too quickly jump to our own defense when we feel
insulted. We do so because we have evolved a hyper
vigilant concern for our standing among peers. This
focus on status makes sense as a play for dominance
and power, qualities that translate into real mating
options. The need to retain status is an example of
Neanderthink. This knee-jerk demand for status can
push us to get outraged and to lose focus on larger
goals, such as keeping your job or your mate. We want
to prove that we are correct—but doing it angrily and
intolerantly can hinder your major objectives.
Dominance at every turn is good, but not a necessity.
The Power of Nine
They call me Bruce
Here's 9 tips which I've found to work in dealing with
Understand the person's intentions.
Get some perspective from others.
Let the person know where you are coming from.
Build a rapport.
Treat the person with respect.
Focus on what can be actioned upon.
Escalate to a higher authority for resolution.
Self Safety Not Self Protection
• Involve other people carefully. If you have failed to
settle a dispute with another person, then (and only
then) consider bringing in other people to help with a
resolution. Just be certain that the difficult person
knows you will be bringing in someone else for help.
• If all else fails, minimize interactions. Sometimes, no
matter what you do, you will not be able to improve
your relationship with a colleague, boss, or customer.
In that case, either eliminate all interaction with the
person (that’s probably not possible if the difficult
person is your boss!) or minimize the time spent with
him/her as much as possible. Your #1 responsibility is
to keep yourself happy.
Don’t become the Problem Case
No Truer Statement was Made
• Ask Albert! Think about the statement and the
solution! Not the conclusion.