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Home WOW Free Articles Handling Difficult Situations / People

Handling Difficult Situations And Difficult People

Communication_Skills,_Conflict_Resolution,_Solving_ProblemsWe all know what it is like to be confronted with a difficult person, whether it is a family member, friend who is having a bad day, a customer or work colleague, or even our normally loving partner. Often the problem gets worse when their snappy remark or thoughtless response catches us unawares, and we retaliate. Before long a full scale war brings everything you have worked towards tumbling down around you.

So bearing in mind that everyone slips occasionally, what can you do to avoid a full on confrontational dialogue.

Firstly, when presented with a difficult situation it is good to remember that you can save the day by taking charge. If your opposite number is out of control, they are just that, not in control. By joining in with their own pain you are not helping them. The trick is to stay cool and keep your head. By doing this you will be able to get both of you back on track.

Manage your stress levels. Remember that by breathing deeply and calmly you will be telling your body that, contrary to what it senses, things are really under control. If you remember the content from the section headed ‘Rapport’ you will also remember that if you keep your own breathing slow and rhythmic, the other person is more likely to calm down too. If they are able to bring their own breathing down in speed, they will calm down.

Speak to them quietly and calmly, even if they are shouting. Do not respond to them abruptly, no matter how sharp or abrupt they are. Your slow, quiet voice will diffuse the situation as long as they are not made to feel that you are humouring them. Allowing a smile to dally on your lips in a friendly way is not harmful, but a controlled smile that lies with smiling eyes will soon be detected and give the impression that you are laughing at them, not with them.

Make sure that your shoulders and arms are relaxed, and do not allow your hands to make gestures that could be misunderstood. Pointing, stabbing and waving are either aggressive or dismissive and are likely to perpetuate the angry response.

A gentle and kindly tone, light and friendly, will win the day. By letting them see that you are not affected by their outburst you will likely trigger a sense of inappropriateness in them. They will realise that they have been unreasonable or that they have over-reacted.

Ask, “How you can help you?”, or “What can I do about your problem?” Let them see that you are concerned, and willing to co-operate. It is most likely that there is no way that you can help them, but you are letting them know that you are on their side, but that you are not going to get into their anger.

Give them time to calm down. Moving out of their range of fire, finding something else to do that takes you out of the equation is allowing them time to cool off and think about whether their outburst or action is appropriate.

If they are out of control regularly and become violent, then you must get someone else to intervene or get out of the line of fire until they have calmed down. If the problem is caused by alcohol or by their being out of control from taking drugs, you must seriously consider taking professional advice. The answer may be to get away for a while until they see that their life is less pleasant without you being there, and that they are willing to co-operate in order to get things back to normal.

Counselling and anger management may be the answer in serious cases.

Managing anger and depression can often mean doing some serious work on your life experiences so that you can come to terms with feelings of not being appreciated, being inadequate or having a low sense of control over your life. If the problem is more with your partner then they may need to undertake this work, or you may find that they need your support in taking help and advice.

Family centred counselling exists for that very same purpose. Often by the time people seek help things have deteriorated to breaking point. By joining the other party in their ‘game’ of being angry or depressed we are helping them to take a way out that will not serve our purpose or their own in the long term. Working together with a therapist will help break the cycle of game playing or reinforcement that goes on between two people who play a role in the events that take place. The therapist will be able to point out what is going on and how each of the two people can learn to react differently in order to change things for the better.

Once the situation gets to this point, success is very normal as each person works towards getting the relationship back on track. By working together on the problem in an open and friendly way, each person feels that the other is co-operating and supporting each other with a common purpose.

Breathing exercises can help. By learning how to slow your breathing in stressful situations you are teaching your body to deal with arousal in a new way. When the body becomes stressed the first thing that happens is that breathing speeds up. In order to breath quickly each breath becomes shallow and the effect is that oxygen is increased so that oxygenated blood can be pumped faster by the heart around the body to the muscles to strengthen and support them when the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism automatically is triggered. Keeping the breathing level slow and rhythmic keeps the body calm and prevents the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism from being triggered.

If the mechanism is triggered, then the angry outburst serves a purpose. It prepares the body for a physical fight or evasive action, once undertaken, helps in using up the adrenalin that is pumped into the blood as the body reacts. The spiralling violence causes the necessary muscle reaction that will return the body to a state deep relaxation once satisfied. Often a weary state results, sometimes causing drowsiness or exhausted sleep, or a state of remorse for the uncontrollable action taken.

By understanding the almost unconscious and sometimes addictive behaviour that arises out of an angry state, it is possible to find an alternative way of reacting. The knowledge and understanding that is gained by the realisation of how the body operates under stress is not an excuse, nor does it rationalise such behaviour and condone it.

This knowledge can motivate an angry person to learn how to control their frequently inappropriate reactions, and the recipient of the angry outburst to react calmly and to take control.

Here are some guidelines that can be employed to encourage difficult people to desist from their behaviour and to fall in line with reason. Most of the interventions require confrontation of some kind, so practice being more assertive if you shun from this. Some of these have been listed below:

The Gossip
Ask for verification of the information given. Ask for who, what, when and how they learned of the information and let them know that you will check it out discreetly. Let them know that you have no time for gossips, and that if it is not true you will tell the other party what has been said.

Again, ask for verification of their motives for interfering. Ask on what authority they have taken the action or involved themselves. Ask them if they have obtained permission to intervene. If they have the attention of a group, ask the group whether they welcome this behaviour, but do it in front of the busybody so that they can see the reaction. If you get a negative from at least half of the people involved, ask them to stop intervening.

Ask them that you believe it is rude to interrupt, for example, “Please don’t interrupt while I (or someone else) is speaking as it feels rude and disrupts my (their) thoughts”, but also tell them that you have to move on or that you will only deal with opinions or questions at the end of your conversation or your speech. If they must have attention you may decide to use them by letting them have their say, but insisting that they give you examples, dates, times, verification for their opinion and possibly show up flaws in their argument or query their authority.

Teacher’s Pet

If you are being pestered by someone who is obviously trying to take up all your time and attention, discourage them by avoiding eye contact or deliberately addressing someone else and ignoring them. They are likely to move on to someone else who will give them the attention they seek.

Move closer and closer, maintaining eye contact. Your constant gaze will make them feel uncomfortable and the centre of attention which will put them on the spot and take the advantage away from them. If they are at a meeting or hogging the limelight, ask them to do a job, say, taking minutes or fetching drinks, etc.

If they are whispering to someone else in front of you, remark loudly that you didn’t hear what they were saying, or ask them to repeat what they were saying to the group so that everyone has the same advantage. Ask them to focus on what is being said so that you are sure they understand the full meaning. Walk up close to them so that they cannot whisper without being detected. This is a low key intervention.

The Drop Out
Usually these people are very shy and tend to shield themselves from view. Let them know that you value what they are thinking and you would be grateful for their opinion. They are sure to have one. Quite often this category of people are very good listeners, and observe protocol so they may be waiting for permission to speak or give their opinion. You will be helping them to speak up.

Silent Sceptic
This type of person often disagrees non-verbally, shaking their head or tutting loudly. The first strategy should be to try to ignore them. If this does not work, acknowledge their non-verbal behaviour but bring the control back to yourself by saying something like, “I see you are shaking your head with disapproval, I think that is quite rude, but do let me have your opinion, I am interested to learn on what you base your criticism”.

Doubting Thomas
If you know that someone will always find fault with your opinion or argument, then pre-arrange that when someone is speaking the other will not evaluate their ideas for a period of time, then use this agreement to silence doubts.

Repetitive Bore
If someone brings up the same opinion over and over again, remind them of this and tell them that in your opinion variety of creative thought means more than sticking doggedly to one point of view. If they don’t get the credit for their ideas they are likely to give up.

Late Comers
Tell them that by constantly being late they are sending the message that you are not as important as the errand or pursuit that made them late. Explain to them that in your opinion this behaviour is rude and explain how this inconveniences and annoys you and others. Tell them that if they persist then you will not wait for them in future.

Early Leavers
Explain that when they constantly leave early it gives you the feeling that your company (or shared activity) is not valued or that there is something that they find more important than sharing time with you. There may be some truth in this, for example, they may be rushing home to switch on the TV, watch a video recording or get on-line to check their correspondence. Be aware that the truth may not be welcome to you but that you should really know why they are leaving early on a regular basis as it could involve family commitments and obligations that leave them feeling stressed and torn.

Touchy Feely
It can be lovely to have someone occasionally touch your arm or put an arm around your shoulders. But unwelcome touches can become a form of abuse. If you tell them that you do not welcome such intimacy and they do not heed your warning, they are showing you disrespect. It may be that they have a problem with observing other people’s physical space, or they may have had their own personal space taken from them as a child by some kind of abuse. Do not tolerate it. End the relationship if you can, or resolve the situation by taking advice or making your displeasure public knowledge.

Angry Complainer
If this is a one off deal or situation, behave as suggested in previous content above by staying calm and asking them how they would like you to help them to resolve the situation. By doing this you are showing them that you are willing to help if you can, and reminding them that the problem is theirs, not yours.

If this person is always an angry complainer, bring this fact to their attention and ask them whether they always react in this way which would indicate that they have a problem with how they see life, or whether it is something that needs to be resolved between yourselves.

If they try to level the fault at your feet you will know that they have some problem with feeling inadequate and they need to make you feel at a disadvantage in order to feel better about themselves. If this is the case, ask yourself why you are in a relationship with someone like this, and what function does it serve for them to be in a relationship with you? The answers may hold the key to the resolution of this issue.

It is possible that you both need to look at the question of delegation, and how you give and receive information between you, or whether what you feel about the other person in terms of values and judgements interferes with your objectivity. Either way, you may be bringing your own issues to the situation.

Angela_Presenting_For_SamsungThis article was written and donated by Angela Saunders Ch. Psychol, who has over 25 years experience in helping people get the most out of their life, their relationships and vastly improve their work skills.

Angela has worked with some of the best business trainers, designing and presenting workshops, courses and mentoring programmes, helping organisations with personal communication programmes, optimising staff performance and stress management.

She has a life-long interest in environmental health, and has expert knowledge about sick building syndrome and how environmental pollution effects performance.

Angela is now giving her time to supporting and developing the World Of Women website, and the aims and objectives to be found on the WOW Pages. For more information contact Angela

Copyright Waiver
Permission is given by Wow Business Review Pages for the reproduction of this article for the purpose of disseminating knowledge and awareness, providing that it is quoted in its entirety and that full credit is given to the writer and to the World Of Women website quoting the website url as above.

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