A difficult person, particularly one who has a reactive personality, can be challenging to confront. Most people prefer to avoid confrontation and dislike uncomfortable situations.
Some interesting things about people with difficult personalities and behaviors are they:
There are five things to consider when confronting difficult individuals, and we will explore them now.
The first and foremost consideration should always be safety. Always take into consideration whether or not the other person is:
If there is any doubt, take safety precautions. The following are important steps to take when safety is a concern.
If there are any safety concerns, let somebody else know that the conversation could be heated. If another person knows about the concerns, he or she can keep an eye and ear out during the meeting.
To avoid sharing confidential information, the watchdog can be:
Keep an open door. Open doors minimize the likelihood that a person will demonstrate negative behaviors.
The best protection is prevention; planning the meeting space in advance will avoid:
Finding a place that is both private and yet allows an escape may be problematic. If it is and if safety is a concern, a location off site, such as a restaurant or coffee shop, may be an option.
Conversations transpire differently depending on whether you are confronting:
Supervisors and others with authority may make final decisions, regardless of whether or not the decision is rational or seemingly beneficial.
If the confrontation is with a person holding a supervisory position, his or her decision will need to be respected, at least for the time being.
Most supervisors will:
But difficult supervisors are more likely to state their opinion and not compromise. In those situations a choice will have to be made to:
This can be a difficult decision to make, but ultimately each person has to discern whether a situation is acceptable or not.
If the confrontation is with a subordinate, the dynamics are reversed. In this situation the subordinate must take the position of accepting the supervisory decision. A supervisor has:
It is essential that a supervisor listen to the concerns of the subordinate, even if the subordinate is a difficult person. Even excessive complaints often have some bits of truth in them, and by listening for those bits of truth, a supervisor can make the wisest decisions. Final decisions should always:
Ideally, confrontation with a peer should be cooperative, if not collaborative. However, with a difficult person we can only hope for, but not expect cooperation.
Ideally, there will be equal power between the two parties, but often one person will have greater influential power because of support given through:
Communication between people of equal position can be a source of frustration because there is no obligation by either party to placate the others' desires.
In stalemates, the goal may change from resolution to fact-finding. Pull together enough information to take the issue to a person at a higher level.
The best protection against an emotional outburst by another person is to manage one's own behavior and emotions. Not doing so pulls one into emotional exchanges and gives emotional power to the other person. If the conversation begins to get heated one should:
In a conversation with a difficult person, the goal is to guide the other person to understand a different perspective. Verbal strikes at the other person can repel rather than attract. Unchecked emotions lead to words that are:
An outcome of any meeting, even those with difficult people, should be an improvement in working relationships.