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Dealing with Difficult


Dealing with Difficult

Sherif El-Henaoui provides a few insights into changing our perspective when dealing with difficult people. 

Often I hear the term difficult about a person that colleagues don’t like or don’t like working with. I kept thinking about that for a while with the conclusion that there is no such thing like a difficult person. Let me explain using two cases.

Case 1: Is John [the person for the sake of the example] understanding / acknowledging to be perceived as difficult (even if he does not think he is difficult, but at least understands that others might do). If the answer is no, then it is not the issue of being difficult, but more a challenge with John’s personality and his capability to read social signals. Coaching is necessary to develop John’s “reading” skills in the situational sense. So it is not about being difficult, but about the personality.

Case 2: Even if Mary [another person for the sake of the example] understands she’s perceived difficult, that does not necessarily change the situation, i.e. that in some group discussions or decision making Mary comes across as difficult. Well in that case the main question is if it is a deliberate choice of Mary to behave difficult (e.g., in order to postpone a process or decision) or it is involuntary?

If it is a voluntary choice of Mary then the solution lies in either overruling her (by the group or her management) or by trying to understand the reason and work on it. In this case being difficult is a unhealthy behavior like being impolite or something else.

If it is involuntary a small scale voting system could help to allow “difficult” people express their concerns without coming across as show-stopper. For example we can use a Likert scale (from fully agree, agree, somehow agree, somehow disagree, fully disagree). In this case we allow people to speak to their concerns and we make an apparent difficult person a valuable contributor to the discussion and decision making process.

Read the full article, This Person Is Difficult, Is He Really? On LinkedIn.