Keeping Control around Difficult People


Almost everyone encounters situations with difficult people sometime in their lives. Having to deal with a difficult friend, coworker, or even neighbor can often be a cause of stress and lead to very uncomfortable situations. There are many ways in which one can handle a difficult person or situation, several of which revolve around remaining calm in tough situations. When people become very angry and agitated, they might say or do things without thinking. These responses may cause feelings to be hurt, and relationships, and even work performance may suffer. Below are some suggestions on how to handle difficult people in some of the more common situations.

1. Customer Service

To keep control while on the phone with a difficult person a representative should remain calm and address the customer’s concerns directly and succinctly. If an answer is unknown, do not guess. An extremely difficult caller should be transferred to a manager. In-person customer service representatives must make sure that their body language remains open and calm. Customers dealing with a difficult customer service representative should say so and ask to speak with another representative or a manager.

2. Workplace

For Employees

Employees facing a difficult manager or boss should first identify what it is about the manager or boss that makes them so difficult. Examples of this include the way directions are given and the expectations placed on the employee. After identifying the difficulty, the employee should consider appropriate responses. An employee could stand up for himself, have a direct conversation about his unhappiness or even ignore the boss altogether and doing the best job possible.  

For Coworkers

Strife between coworkers has the potential for gossip to spread and sides to be taken. If a coworker is particularly difficult, the employer should be made aware of the problem and made responsible for the situation. However, if the issue is not as severe to warrant employer intervention the best way to keep control around the difficult person is to distance yourself from them as much as possible. If this is not possible, produce the best work possible so that it can never come under fire.

For Management

Managers and bosses also must keep control around difficult employees. To do so, it may be necessary to speak directly with the employee about the problems with his behavior. If that fails, subject the entire office to a human resource presentation about proper office etiquette. An employee that insists on behaving difficultly after these conversations may need to be terminated.

3. Friends & Relatives

Personal relationships are some of the most difficult to navigate. Some difficult friends are sometimes not valuable to have in your lives. As harsh as it may seem, friendships that do not provide the emotional aspects you want might not be worth maintaining. In this situation, reducing or ceasing contact with that person might be the best way to keep your control.

Relationships with relatives, though, are extremely complex because there is little that can be done. Personalities, arguments and factions of family members may cause discord and strife at family gatherings and holidays. When deciding how you will handle difficult family members, consider your emotional needs and wants. Identify these needs and whether it is reasonable and possible for the difficult family member to meet those needs.

If you can answer yes to both of those questions it is then time for you to choose a way to relay your needs, wants and expectations in a safe, calm manner. A safe manner is one that protects your emotional and physical health. Possible methods may be through a phone call or in a private conversation. Whatever method you choose, though, should be done in a manner in which you know you will be able to maintain a calm demeanor.

4. Neighbors

Unfortunately, while you can pick your house, you cannot choose your neighbors. Prior to getting into a conflict with your neighbor decide whether the issue is worth approaching. Small issues that are not truly dangerous but rather only bothersome, problems you can manage yourself or issues that have the potential to explode out of control and become arguments should be avoided. Always maintain civility and, when possible, discuss problems with your neighbor in a calm manner. If your neighbor is particularly difficult and your neighborhood is governed by a homeowner’s association you might want to consider bringing the problem to the attention of the association so that they can address it with your neighbor.

There are many ways of dealing with difficult people and situations, however, there is always more than one side to an argument, so if possible, try to speak with the person that you are having problems with directly. Sometimes just trying to remain understanding and working to create a compromise that is fair to both parties might be a resolution to the issue.