I’m sure we can all think of a time when things weren’t going our way, and we reacted emotionally rather than listening to our intuition. Losing our cool, saying something we shouldn’t or storming out of the room.
This happened to me once when I was presenting a proposal for a project I had been working on. I was confident to share it with a committee of colleagues and superiors. After all, I had countless hours of extensive research, facts and logic on my side. I was ready.
I thought there was no way that anyone could disagree with my perfectly constructed plan. However, I knew I worked with a couple of difficult colleagues who found enjoyment in resisting change when it came to adopting new ideas that were not to their credit.
When I entered the boardroom, it was not long until I was face to face with one of these individuals who refused to listen to or be swayed by my logic or answers. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement. To my dismay, a battle of words began, which in the end, solved nothing and made us both look foolish.
I remember this specific meeting because it marked the last time I would ever find myself in that kind of situation. I now knew better. My experience taught me it would have been much more appropriate to take the time and think carefully before responding to the harsh resistance presented rather than evoking an emotional reaction.
A respected leader should always endorse a team atmosphere and encourage others to work and support one another. However, sometimes that can be difficult when working with coworkers who have a history of being negative and uncooperative.
Since that time, I have learned that when I am faced with these kinds of situations, the absolute wrong approach is to try to convince them what I think is right or the best solution. It’s something that has to be approached from a standpoint of them discovering for themselves what is right or best.
In some cases, the same proposed conclusion can be made as long as they feel it was their idea. As childish as that may sound, it’s unfortunately the mindset of those whose natural behavior is to aggressively react rather than listen to understand. Due to their own insecurities, an ultimate decision or agreement must be based on the self-interest philosophy of what’s most advantageous to them.
It’s a fine line to walk and a topic that I have conducted more leadership coaching on than any other subject. Based on my experiences, here is some coaching advice on how to deal with difficult people.
Be The Example
Leadership should be about influence. Therefore, fully accepting what is happening in a difficult moment means letting go of the unrealistic thought it will change by itself. The only way it will change is if the true leader in these situations makes a commitment to rise above. This comes with disciplining oneself to not be tempted to emotionally react, which in many cases can and will be the hardest step of all.
Experience and growth will come with each time you’re confronted with conflict and difficult people. It’s far more respectable to not allow yourself to get caught up in the situation. Be as you want to be seen by others by upholding your morals and values with self-confidence.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Adjusting just a few key behaviors can make a huge difference in how others perceive you. No one wants to be around someone who’s always negative and blaming others. Therefore, if you are forced to deal with a difficult co-worker whose actions attempt to bring you down, try to concentrate more on the positives aspects of your job. If this is a struggle at the time, take a moment and inventory what your job allows you to do outside of the workplace. Perhaps your income and company benefits provide you with the means to do the things you love, which in return brings happiness. Remember, we work to live. We shouldn’t live to work.
By adjusting your attitude and approach towards difficult people and situations, you’ll gain strength, knowledge and feel more positive. You’ll also find that others will view you differently and have far more respect for your character because they sense your supportive nature and willingness to listen to others.
Don’t Take Offense
It’s no surprise the first feeling I had when my presentation was met with an unfavorable impression was to be offended by what was being said about me and my ideas. However, I had to think about what it meant to “take” offense to something someone else was saying. Taking offense is an active choice of possession.
I look at an offense as a baseball. If someone threw a baseball at another person, they have a choice to catch it or let it pass by. It’s the same thing with an offense. It’s a choice of taking offense or letting it slide by. If someone catches a baseball, what is their first reaction? It would likely be to throw the ball back. Leaders must understand that if they choose to be offended, they have a responsibility regarding what to do next.
Learn to Tolerate
Once you discover the meaning behind a person’s resistance, look for a way to resolve the issue. A respectful and cooperative manner can help you achieve a quick victory over the aggressor without harming your reputation.
Sometimes people don’t realize that they are perceived as being negative. If it’s possible, pull the person aside in private and tell them that you’re really trying to find a positive solution to benefit the company and could use their help. This tactic might be subtle enough to invoke a change in their behavior.
Don’t Give Up
Like it or not, we spend most every weekday with our coworkers. In some cases, more time with them than our own families. Therefore, the key to our career success — not to mention overall company’s success — is to get along.
It’s true that difficult people are not likely to change. Therefore, the best way to see a change in them is to change our own thinking and behaviors. How many times have you thought, “If only he or she would be more responsive, positive, or reliable?” Stop wasting valuable time and energy on an incapability and realize wishes are great in theory, but they are not reality.
From my experience, most naysayers’ attitudes stem from insecurities and they just want to be heard. You could change your approach and include them in your research and preparation before proposing an idea and give them credit for their contribution. You may think you don’t need their help. However, if there is a chance including them on your research team could result in a successful result, you just might want their help.
If negative and confrontational situations continue and are indeed affecting your work production, it is your responsibility as a leader to follow your human resources guideless by documenting the situation and requesting a resolution moving forward.
Until an official recommendation is made, focus on minimizing conflict by working through your supervisor or another leader who can ensure a more productive line of communication that will benefit both your own well-being and the best interest for the company.
Negative people don’t have to get the best of us. But they can bring out the best in us if we choose to lead by example, stay positive, cooperate and commit to finding the best solutions.