How to Deal With Difficult People

♫ The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town…♫

Lyrics and music by: Lydia Ulsaker, sung by teachers, parents and children everywhere.


(image by: LaurMG, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

James C. Collins wrote the best seller: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Other’s Don’t.”  It has stood the test of time and sold over 4 million copies according to Wikipedia.

Jim has some very good advice that is contained in his seven characteristics of companies that went from good to great. For this column I am only going to deal with the first:

First Who, Then What: Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. This is all about finding the right people and trying them out in different positions.

Of course to get the right people on the bus, you have to find out who may be the wrong people on the bus that perhaps have to get off.

Well that is all well and good if you are in a management role and have the authority to ask someone to politely get off the bus. What if you are a fellow rider and have to work with someone who should have been asked to get off a long time ago but for one reason or another, is still on the bus.  Now what? published Kevin Kruse’s article “Dealing with Difficult People”.  The full article can be found here, but I am just going to summarize his excellent advice:

  1. Don’t get dragged down. Don’t get sucked into their world of negativity.
  2. Listen. Use good listening techniques.  They think no one is listening to them.
  3. Use a time for venting. Let the Downer vent for 5 minutes. Then move on.
  4. Don’t agree. Appeasing them only adds fuel to the fire.
  5. Don’t stay silent. Silence will be interpreted as agreement.
  6. Do switch extremes into facts. Switch them to fact-based statements.
  7. Move to problem solving. Help them move to a problem-solving mode.
  8. Cut them off. Nothing worked? Then politely shut them down.

You want to enjoy the company of those with whom you work while the wheels on the bus go round and round.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver.


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