Dealing with Difficult People at Work

Difficult people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and stress.

Stress is a formidable threat to your success – when stress gets out of control, your brain and performance suffer. Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. It’s the unexpected source of stress that takes you by surprise and harm you the most.

To deal with difficult people, what follows are some of the best. To deal with difficult people effectively, you need an approach that enables you to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

 

Set limits

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their own problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join in their pity party so they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressured to listen as they don’t want to be seen as rude or callous.

But there’s a fine line of lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. A way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.


Rise above

Difficult people drive you crazy because their behaviour is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behaviour truly goes against reason. The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally. You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos.


Stay aware of their emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

When you find yourself with a co-worker who is not thinking clearly, sometimes it’s just best to smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.


Establish boundaries

Most people feel like because they work with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This is not true. Once you’ve found your way to rise above a person, you’ll begin to find their behaviour more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos.


Don’t die in the fight

Smart people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. Read and respond to your emotions – you’ll then able to choose your battle wisely and stand your ground.


Don’t focus on problems – only solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

Fixating on how crazy and difficult toxic people are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling it is and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control.


Don’t forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Smart people are unwilling to be bogged down by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.


Squash negative talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.


Get some sleep

When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspectives you need to deal effectively with them.


Use support system

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person.

Identify people who have a positive influence on you and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Explaining the situation to them can lead to new perspectives as they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

 

Source: Apa.org (image)