For the last 15 years I have been teaching courses and workshops on personal development issues; assertiveness, confidence and self-esteem, resilience, communications skills and so on. I have been struck by how often people see others as being 'difficult.'
How to Deal with Difficult People looks at what exactly people mean when they think of others as being 'difficult people.' It helps you to understand how and why they are being difficult and looks at whether they are being difficult or if it's just you that's finding them difficult to deal with. It then goes on to give practical techniques to deal with a range of difficult people. It concludes with advice on how to deal with people who are not just difficult, they are impossible!
Why is the festive season the prime time to apply teachings from this book?
Because this is when we come into contact with more people and a wider variety of people in our lives. We are often already under stress at this time - trying to get it all together for a happy successful time for everyone - and if someone else is being difficult at this time it can tip us over the edge!
Why are some people naturally demanding, unreasonable, awkward, infuriating and just make life difficult?
Because they have needs, wants, likes and dislikes that they are not able to express in a calm, honest and straightforward way. So they go about it in a range of ways that make it difficult for the rest of us: they maybe, for example, manipulative, underhand and devious. Or they may be overbearing, forceful and aggressive. Or they may be disengaged, apathetic or unreliable.
How is it possible to change these people?
It is possible to change these people by changing your approach. Change your approach and you will change how they respond.
Can you give us an example of a reaction that might reduce the stress of talking with a difficult person?
Yes. Learning to develop and use listening skills is very effective. This means reflecting back what the other person has said - acknowledging what they have said - before you respond with what you do or don't think, or want. Reflecting back what the other person has said slows down the exchange which gives you more time to think. It prevents the exchange from spinning out of control. I've included an excerpt from the book, below in blue as an example
Listen and acknowledge the reply
Use your listening skills here. Don't interrupt, defend or argue, just listen. You do not have to agree with what they said, just be sure that you have understood.
Acknowledge what the other person has said. For example, if Duncan’s mother had said;
“Well, it’s true, you did throw away your chances when you dropped out of university – I’m not being negative or critical. Seems to me I can never say the right thing; you’re so sensitive. Anyway, I imagine Oliver (Duncan’s partner) agrees with me.”
Duncan acknowledges his mother’s response by saying “I know you think I missed out on going to university and I know you think I’m over sensitive and you feel you can never say the right thing. I think, though … “
Be sure to acknowledge and respond only to what is relevant. In this case, what Oliver does or doesn’t think is not relevant.
You may not agree with the difficult person’s view but you’ve acknowledged that this is how they see it.
Repeat the process. Listen to the other persons’ response and continue the process; listening, acknowledging and responding.
Why is stress linked to our interactions with other people?
Stress is about feeling overwhelmed - both mentally and physically. Other peoples’ demands, expectations, readiness to cooperate (or not) all have an impact on our day. If other people are being difficult, it's just one more thing you have to deal with in your day, on top of everything else. Their behaviour can overwhelm you. However, once you know how to deal with them you create a smoother path of communication and can deal with them calmly and with confidence. You no longer feel overwhelmed and stressed
What is next for you?
This year I'm teaching an 'Introduction to Counselling Skills' course, an assertiveness course and a confidence building' at a local adult education centre. I'm also writing a second book on the subject of Mindfulness
About Gill Hasson
Gill Hasson is a teacher, trainer and writer. She has 20 years’ experience in personal development, with expertise in the areas of confidence and self-esteem, communication skills, assertiveness and resilience. Her key motivation is her belief in people’s ability to positively change their way of thinking - about life, other people, and themselves.
Gill works with people from diverse backgrounds and situations. She delivers teaching and training for education organisations, voluntary and business organisations and the public sector.
Gill is the author of the international bestsellers Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.
Her most recent book, How to Deal With Difficult People: Smart Tactics for Overcoming the Problem People in Your Life will be published by Capstone in December 2014.