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Working with Difficult People

  • Accept the fact that there will always be difficult people
  • Focus on what you CAN change (your reaction to difficult people)
  • Resist the urge to be defensive
Types of Difficult PeopleDescriptionHow to handle them
The Tank Confrontational, pointed, angry, aggressive Hold your ground, command respect, interrupt their attacks, backtrack to main points
The Sniper Often sarcastic, rude, rolls their eyes Be direct and assertive, try to get to the root issue, suggest a civil future
The Grenade Explosive, unfocused ranting Get their attention, show concern, cool down, prevention
The Know-it-all Blames others, does not like to be questioned Be prepared, know your stuff, recognize their expertise, patience
The Think-they-know-it-all Fools some of the people enough of the time Give them some attention, ask about specifics, know your facts and use “I” messages when giving facts
The Yes person Says yes often, overcommitted and then resentful Get commitment to specifics, don’t always take yes for an answer
The Nothing person No feedback provided Plan for sufficient time, open ended questions, use humor, guess
The No person Negative, doesn’t want to try new things Be compassionate, don’t try to convince them to be positive, get them to be specific
The Whiner Overwhelmed by unfairness Patience, look for solutions, draw the line
The Judge Judgmental and critical, high standards Acknowledge the judgement OR give it back to them
The Victim Passive-aggressive, mask expressing feelings of anger Refuse to engage, point out elephant in the room, accept denial

What can you do?

  • Choose your battles wisely
  • Work to diffuse situations
  • Detach yourself
  • Remove yourself entirely
  • Pause to think things over
  • Talk to a trusted friend or peer
  • Confront in private
  • Talk to your supervisor
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