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How to work with difficult people?

Have you ever met someone who frustrated you so much that you felt like you wanted to leave the room and never come back? Well, you’re not alone!

Over the years, working in community pharmacy, then the industry and now coaching clients, I can say I have met my fair share of difficult people. Either people who did not show up on time, people who complain about not having enough time when they spend most of their day procrastinating, people who will refuse to collaborate and more.

At first I was asking myself “What is wrong with these people?”, “These people lack ethics” but soon I learned that I was only putting myself down without actually having a positive impact on my work environment. No matter which industry you are in, these people are everywhere so rather than getting annoyed or angry, turn those emotions into a positive outcome by having a positive mindset and looking for the best in a situation and seeing what you can learn from it.

Here are some friendly tips on how to help you engagement with you colleagues or clients:

1. Be calm!

Getting angry and annoyed, as I mentioned before will not help in any way, shape or form. Someone who manages to keep their calm will show self-control and control of the situations. They will prove to be more respectable and ultimately that is what you should be aiming. Calming down also has an effect on others, as they will not want to seem the edgy ones and will level their attitude to match yours.

2. Understand the person's reasons.

Try and acknowledge the place the other person is speaking from. Why are they annoyed, angry or edgy? What is their situation? Try to identify their trigger and by that you will learn what is the reason for his/her behaviour.

Once you have understood that, try and see if you can meet his/her needs or if there is a common agreement you can reach at.

3. See things from a different perspective.

Your friends, family and colleagues will have gone through similar situations in their work. Speak to them to find out if their situation was different in any way from yours and how they handled it. You might find some great advice from an objective place.

4. Explain yourself.

Every action is done for a reason. Have you explained this reason to your friend, colleague or client? Have they understood your intentions. Often people are resistant when they do not understand the bigger picture or the reason behind a specific action. Once this is clear, they might be more receptive to embrace your point of view.

5. Build a connection.

Reconnect with your colleague or client. Use a personal touch by going out for a coffee or lunch and by discussing your lives outside of work. Sometimes, we see our bosses or colleagues as simply that. By allowing us to see the human side, we foster stronger connections and relationships.

6. Treat the person with respect.

Irrespective if it’s in the workplace, at home or among friends, no one wants to be treated with disrespect or like they are incompetent. Even if you disagree with someone, try to understand their reasons and explain why you disagree from a place of calm, respect and clarity. If you treat them as your equal and not with a smug superior attitude, they will respect you more and acknowledge your wisdom.

7. Focus on what can be corrected.

Sometimes things might be out of your control. If a situation has already happened and there is nothing you can do about the past, focus on future impact and corrective actions. Focus on what you can do to reduce the damages and prevent further backfire. Do not put the person responsible for the damage down or treat them with disrespect. Acknowledge their mistake, allow them to take responsibility and assist them into taking action.

8. Ignore or escalate.

Depending on the situation you might simply want to ignore this other person. It might be easier for you and might have little impact on your daily activity. However, if the behaviour continues you might want to escalate this to a higher authority. Do so in such a manner that will allow for respect and consideration towards the other person.

If you are the higher authority, try going back to step 2 and understand what is really stopping this person to engage as they should. Sometimes people might be reluctant to come out in the first instance with a personal problem they might be having.

I hope these tips will help you have a better relationship with your colleagues, clients or suppliers and facilitate the running of your daily activities!

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