By: Mark Lauderdale MD FRCPC
In my website survey, people reported all kinds of annoying and frustrating behavior in their coworkers, bosses, employees or family members.
Very often they would end with a question like, "How can I control my feelings when I’m around this person?" or, "How do I get power over my emotions in this situation?"
Question From a Reader…
"How do you maintain your composure when a person is being unrealistic in their behavior and their actions?"
Your question is extremely important. You are rightly concerned about something I call, “The Difficult People Tango”. When a difficult person is being difficult their behavior often triggers a stress reaction in us – anger, annoyance, frustration, fear, anxiety, etc.
If we aren’t careful we may act on these negative feelings and then say or do negative things. In my experience, negative emotions ALWAYS produce negative actions and these negative actions almost always produce negative results.
So, you are quite right that maintaining your composure is valuable. But I would go further than that. Not only is maintaining your composure important, but it’s even better to feel strong and confident when dealing with a difficult person.
But your question was HOW to do that. There are a few key steps, which I explain in greater depth in my ebook, ‘Secrets of Dealing with Difficult People’.
(1) Target the problem behavior: Target the exact behavior you want to deal with. If there are several pick one at a time. (e.g., verbal abuse, complaining, refusing to cooperate, being abrasive, etc.)
(2) Identify your goal: Become clear about the way you want things to be instead. This could be as simple as wanting someone’s annoying behavior to not trigger you any more, or it could be as complicated as wanting to train someone to stop raising their voice and discuss matters in a calm and respectful way.
(3) Tap into your personal power: Think of an experience in your life that is associated with feeling strong and confident – some time in your life when you felt really good. Then close your eyes, remember this positive experience and blend these good feelings into a scenario with the difficult person. Visualize several episodes with this person blending in the good experience every time until you can feel yourself remaining calm and confident in the presence of the difficult person.
(4) Mentally rehearse dealing with the situation: Once you are feeling calmer and more confident, continue to mentally rehearse scenarios of dealing with this person’s difficult behavior. Imagine dealing with them in all sorts of ways – good, bad or ugly – and play it forward so you can see the probably effect of your actions.
This has a cleansing effect because you’ll see for yourself the negative effects of your negative actions. Your mind will then become more creative and also open to good ideas. This is when you’ll be most able to make constructive use of advice or ideas in books or tapes.
In my book, "Secrets of Dealing with Difficult People", I gave you some coping strategies that you can use. However, I’ve learned that simply giving strategies to someone is NOT the same as actually giving them control over their emotions.
In other words, giving advice to someone may be interesting and useful to some extent, but to produce an ACTUAL change in the way a person is FEELING requires something more than that.
In my office I rarely give advice any more. It just doesn’t produce much in the way of genuine positive change.
What I do instead is to empower people – to give them a feeling of strength and confidence when facing the problem person or situation …and when THAT happens they usually find that they ALREADY KNOW what to do.
Now, here’s MY problem… Most people on the internet are searching for "information" or "advice" on dealing with difficult people, which is why I wrote the ebook, but I KNOW that what they REALLY need is a "shift in their emotional state" into their PERSONAL POWER!
If you would like me to guide you step-by-step into YOUR personal power …just as though you were sitting with me in my office …get the Everyday Power CD program and keep YOUR cool around difficult people.
Mark Lauderdale MD FRCPC
Psychiatrist and Personal Effectiveness Coach
Copyright 2009 Dr Mark Lauderdale. By reading and accepting this article you agree to all of the following: You understand that this is simply a set of opinions (and not "professional advice"). You are responsible for your own decisions and actions when using the information in this article and hold Dr Mark Lauderdale and Wellspring Personal Effectiveness Inc. and all members and affiliates harmless in any claim or event.