Take a moment and imagine yourself working alongside the two stepsisters from Cinderella or the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs. Wouldn’t it be difficult to work with them?
Every job or workplace has difficult people–maybe not cruel like Cinderella’s stepsisters or the Big Bad Wolf, but difficult nevertheless.
They could be demanding, exasperating, or plain uncooperative. They could also be difficult because of their tendency to throw tantrums, resist change, or because they’re last-minute workers.
Such people make it challenging to collaborate and work in teams; worst of all, they add stress to the workplace.
Their behavior could be a trigger for you, but the trick is to learn how to deal with them.
We often look at difficult people as an ‘other’. But what if you looked at them from another lens? Or what if you used your emotional intelligence and looked inwards to see if the ‘difficulty’ lies within?
Harappa’s Navigating Workplaces course teaches you that to maintain a healthy conflict-free workplace, it is vital to assess the culture of an organization, value different perspectives, and cooperate with co-workers.
No matter whom you’re dealing with, always remember you are in control far more than you realize. And you can choose how to respond or even react.
Dealing with difficult people is about handling their—and your own—emotions.
Here are six ways of finding your emotionally intelligent self and dealing with difficult people:
1. Don’t fuse a trait with a person
It is imperative to recognize that an individual is the sum of their parts. One trait or behavior does not and should not define a person. Avoid labeling them just because they may have forgotten to send you a report on time or asked you to redo your report.
2. Borrow their lens
Sometimes we can view a situation through the lens of the other person. As The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz says, we can use a reverse lens like this to ask ourselves, “What is this person feeling?”
Empathy goes a long way when we can appreciate the perspective of the person who makes us feel dismissed or devalued. This provides us space to deliberate before reacting, and makes us flexible in our behavior towards them.
3. Listen to reflect
Hear what isn’t said. Attend fully to the person, clarify if required, and summarize. Maintain eye contact and monitor your tone; people may hear something different from what we are saying. For example, we can say, “I know I sound angry, but that is because this issue is so important to me.”
4. Identify the intent
Be mindful of what others want. Do they want to get things done, get them right, get along, or be appreciated? The answers to these questions can help us frame our response. Understanding where they are coming from and what is likely to work for them is half the battle won.
5. Be assertive
Don’t counteract. Acknowledge their point of view and express yours. Keep yourself centered and assert with calmness. Use ‘I’ phrases to change the ownership of the problem. For example, “I understand you’re upset, but I would like to have a conversation about what went wrong.” Remember, there is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive.
6. Look inwards
Take notice of how their behavior affects you. Recognize transference of emotions if and when it occurs; accept your anger but don’t try and shift the responsibility onto someone else. Work through your feelings.
Accessing the emotionally intelligent self may be hard for some and easy for others. However, wherever it is hidden, if harnessed, it guides you to step up and navigate through the complex maze of emotions. It teaches you to experience and learn from interactions, to understand that not everything needs to be fought head-on and to reflect on what an external reaction or emotion stirs in us.
So the next time you’re bothered by someone you consider difficult at work, just take a step back and reverse the lens. The picture will be much clearer.
Explore blogs in our Harappa Diaries section to learn about emotional intelligence, examples of emotional intelligence, and the components of emotional intelligence in our Harappa Diaries section and take charge of your growth.
Shreya Singhal is a Manager with the Learner Engagement Team at Harappa Education. She has a Master’s in Adolescent Mental Health and Clinical Psychology.
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