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Dealing with Difficult People

1.       Qualifications

a.       JohnLyon, MSW, LICSW

b.      TrainedSocial Worker and Therapist.

c.       Employedat the Village Family Service Center for 6 years as atherapist.

d.      Iteach classes on Anger management, Parenting, work with children who have beenabused and neglected, Couples, individuals with anxiety and depression, men whohave sexually offended against children and trauma work.

e.      CourtBaron of Northshield, twice Seneschal of Korsvag, Western Regional Seneschal,Executive Officer Northshield Army, Autocrat of many events

2.       Truisms

a.       Defensivepeople are lousy listeners

b.      Perceptiontrumps reality

c.       Fearis a greater motivator than want

d.      Peoplelike to feel included

e.      Peopleare doing the best they can

f.       Words to avoid: You, Should, ought, absolutes,why

3.       Whyare people difficult?

a.       Thereis something they are afraid of

b.      Theydon’t understand something about what is going on.

c.       Theyhave goals that are counter to yours

d.      Theyhave a different history/experience with the situation and see things going ina different direction

e.      Thereis something in you that is creating the difficulty.

                                                              i.     As Dan Savage says, If every relationship youhave ends because the other person was a jerk. Stop and think, what is thecommon factor? YOU!

4.       Characteristicsof Difficult problems

a.       Intrasparency(lack of clarity of the situation)

                                                              i.     Commencement opacity (How to start)

                                                            ii.     Continuation opacity (How to continue)

b.      Polyely(multiple goals)

                                                              i.     Inexpressiveness (Not talking)

                                                            ii.     Opposition (Others want different things thanyou)

                                                           iii.     Transience (Problem is short lived or theopportunity to act is brief)

                                                          iv.     Complexity (large numbers of items,interrelations and decisions)

c.       Complexity(large numbers of items, interrelations and decisions)

                                                              i.     Enumerability (counting or listing)

                                                            ii.     Connectivity (hierarchy relation, communicationrelation, allocation relation)

                                                           iii.     Heterogeneity (differences within demands)

d.      Dynamics(time considerations)

                                                              i.     Temporal Constraints (Time limitations)

                                                            ii.     Temporal Sensitivity (Must act quickly)

                                                           iii.     Phase Effects

                                                          iv.     Dynamic unpredictability (difficulty inpredicting the future)

5.       Puttingit into perspective

a.       Step1: Identify the actual event (source of stress) 

b.      Step2: List worst case scenarios

c.       Step3: List best case scenarios

d.      Step4: List most likely scenarios

e.      Step5: Determine plan for dealing with most likely scenarios

6.       Dealingwith Criticism.

a.       Firststop the attack. You don’t deserve to be battered by hostile and abusiveattacks from others. If the other person won’t stop in spite of your requestcall for a time-out or walk away.

b.      Remindyourself that it is only one person’s opinion about a specific aspect of yourbehavior. A criticism (no matter how correct) doesn’t, and shouldn’t, damageyour self worth.

c.       Getmore information. As unpleasant as it can be, getting good feedback can helpyou improve how you do things, both with this person and with others.

d.      Cloudingis agreeing either partially, in principal, or in probability.

                                                              i.     Useful across many situations but of limitedpower

                                                            ii.     “The Shire has been spending more money lately”

                                                           iii.     “I don’t think it is right to waste the Shire’smoney”

                                                          iv.     “It probably does seem like the Shire is losingmoney right now.”

e.      Assertivepreference shuts down a critic completely. You acknowledge the criticism butmake it clear that you disagree with it.

                                                              i.     More powerful, but less generally useful. Onlyuseful in situations where the other person doesn’t get a vote on what you aredoing.

                                                            ii.     “Your Grace I appreciate your comments, but thisis how I choose to handle this situation.

                                                           iii.     “I’ll take that under advisement your Grace.”

f.       Finally there is the Content-to-process shift.Here you prevent things from getting worse when there are feelings behind thescenes fueling the fire. Change what you are talking about from the issue(content) to what’s going on inside you or the quality of the interaction(process).

                                                              i.     Most powerful, but of limited utility. Only usefulwhen you know that something is going on behind the scenes.

                                                            ii.     “Last week all of my shots were fine, but thisweek all of my shots are excessive or light, is my calibration off or issomething else going on?”

7.       ActiveListening               

a.       Acknowledgethe thoughts, ideas or feelings first

                                                              i.     Show your readiness to listen by recognizing andhearing the thoughts, ideas and feeling of the other person. Nods, “uh-huhs”and comments that indicate you recognize the validity of the speaker’s feelings

                                                            ii.     “Sounds like you’re really upset by this”

b.      Sayit in different words

                                                              i.     A powerful and important component of activelistening is reflection, otherwise known as paraphrasing. This lets the otherperson know you are trying to understand. It clarifies the communication andslows the pace of the conversation. Repeat what the other speaker is saying inyour own words, without adding anything no there in the first place.

                                                            ii.     “If I’m following you, you are really wonderinghow this recent decision will affect your shire.”

c.       Askopen ended questions

                                                              i.     Ask for help when you get lost in aconversation. Test your interpretation of what the speaker is saying. Askrelevant, open-ended questions beginning with “what”, “how”, “please explain”,or “describe.”

                                                            ii.     “How will that influence new members in yourshire?”

d.      Summarizeand clarify

                                                              i.     Pull together what you have heard. Make sure youunderstand the speaker’s intent. This keeps you from falling into “selectiveperception” When you perceive selectively, you are already expecting thespeaker to react in a certain way, perhaps based on past experience, or on theway you would react. You then respond to the reaction you’ve predeterminedinstead of the real one. Not helpful.

                                                            ii.     “You mentioned talking with them or just lettingit go. What might be some other options?”

e.      Givean opinion

                                                              i.     Do this with caution, ask if they are willing orwant to hear your opinion.

                                                            ii.     “Would you be interested in hearing my thoughtsabout this?”

8.       Tipsfor active listening

a.       Makeeye contact

                                                              i.     Eye contact increases the chances of “getting”the message and demonstrated interest and attention.

b.      Adjustyour body posture

                                                              i.     Facing the speaker and slightly leaning in,suggests that you are paying attention and helps you stay tuned in.

c.       Giveverbal or nonverbal acknowledgment

                                                              i.     Acknowledging the speaker helps involve you inthe communication process and shows you are paying attention

d.      Clearyour mind

                                                              i.     Clear your mind of your own thoughts to avoidwandering mentally

9.       Roadblocksto effective listening

a.       EmotionalInterference (your baggage)

b.      Defensiveness(feeling that you are being attacked)

c.       Hearingonly facts and not feelings

d.      Notseeking clarification (assuming you know what they mean or intend)

e.      Hearingwhat is expected instead of what is said

f.       Stereotyping

g.       TheHalo Effect (the tendency for something to be influenced by a looselyassociated factor

h.      AutomaticDismissal (i.e. “we’ve never done it that way”)

i.        Resistance to change

10.   Reducingconflict

a.       TheDefusing Technique:

                                                              i.     The other person might be angry and may come tothe situation armed with a number of arguments describing how you are to blamefor his or her unhappiness. Your goal is to address the other’s anger – andyou do this by simply agreeing with the person. When you find sometruth in the other point of view, it is difficult for the other person tomaintain anger. For example, “I know that I said I would call you last night.You are absolutely right. I wish I could be more responsible sometimes.” Theaccusation might be completely unreasonable from your viewpoint, but there isalways some truth in what the other person says. At the very least, we need toacknowledge that individuals have different ways of seeing things. This doesnot mean that we have to compromise our own basic principles. We simplyvalidate the other’s stance so that we can move on to a healthier resolution ofthe conflict. This may be hard to do in a volatile situation, but a sign ofindividual strength and integrity is the ability to postpone our immediatereactions in order to achieve positive goals. Sometimes we have to “lose” inorder, ultimately, to “win.”

b.      Empathy:

                                                              i.     Try to put yourself into the shoes of the otherperson. See the world through their eyes. Empathy is an important listeningtechnique which gives the other feedback that he or she is being heard. Thereare two forms of empathy. Thought Empathy gives the message thatyou understand what the other is trying to say. You can do this in conversationby paraphrasing the words of the other person. For example, “I understand youto say that your trust in me has been broken.” Feeling Empathy isyour acknowledgment of how the other person probably feels. It is importantnever to attribute emotions which may not exist for the other person (such as,“You’re confused with all your emotional upheaval right now”), but rather toindicate your perception of how the person must be feeling. For example, “Iguess you probably feel pretty mad at me right now.”

c.       Exploration:

                                                              i.     Ask gentle, probing questions about what theother person is thinking and feeling. Encourage the other to talk fully aboutwhat is on his or her mind. For example, “Are there any other thoughts that youneed to share with me?”

d.      Using“I” Statements:

                                                              i.     Take responsibility for your own thoughts ratherthan attributing motives to the other person. This decreases the chance thatthe other person will become defensive. For example, “I feel pretty upset thatthis thing has come between us.” This statement is much more effective thansaying, “You have made me feel very upset.”

e.      Stroking:

                                                              i.     Find positive things to say about the otherperson, even if the other is angry with you. Show a respectful attitude. Forexample, “I genuinely respect you for having the courage to bring this problemto me. I admire your strength and your caring attitude.”

11.   Negotiatingin a principled manner

a.       Alwaysseparate the people from the problem.

                                                              i.     A good negotiation should involve a desire formaintaining the relationship. This is especially true for co-workers. But therelationship should not influence the substance of the conflict. If it isstrictly a relationship problem, deal with it as such.

b.      Focuson the interests, not positions.

                                                              i.     Do not get caught up in the position the personhas taken. What is behind their position? Why are they offering what they are?Are there other ways to get their needs met (and yours)? Acknowledge their interestsand keep up a discussion about both parties interests - this is the way togenerate alternative solutions.

c.       Generatea variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.

                                                              i.     Realize that solving their problem is also a wayof solving yours. Look for ways that you will both benefit (win-win). Don'tassume that there is only one single answer (theirs, or yours!)

d.      Insistthat results be based on some objective standard.

                                                              i.     Ideally, to assure a wise agreement, objectivecriteria should be not only independent of will, but also legitimate andpractical. There are many objective standards that can be applied when tryingto negotiate fairly. The following are only a few:
Market Value, What a court would decide? Precedent, Moral Standards,  Scientific Judgment, Equal TreatmentProfessional Standards, Tradition, Efficiency, Reciprocity

12.   Howto deal with Arguing

a.       Quiet,slow, calm voice

                                                              i.     helps keep the total energy level down andallows for non-defensive conversation

b.      BrokenRecord approach

                                                              i.     repeat over and over “I am not going to arguewith you.”

                                                            ii.     Be prepared to keep at it for a while

c.       EmpatheticResponse

                                                              i.     Call out to the emotion you are hearing and notwhat they are arguing about

                                                            ii.     I.E.” It sounds like you are really scared” or“You sound really angry about what I am saying”

13.   SettingLimits

a.       Acknowledgethe other person’s needs

b.      Stateyour own position

c.       SayNo

d.      “Iknow that you had asked me to cook lunch for the event (Acknowledging), but I’malready committed to Marshalling and running tourneys (Your position) so I amgoing to have to ask you to find someone else to cook lunch.” (Saying no)

14.   AssertiveStatements   

a.       Facts:make a factual statement about the current situation, something that isobjectively true

b.      Feelings:talk about how YOU are feeling without blaming others or stating how they feel

c.       Fairrequest: basically just saying what you want, but make sure that it issomething that is specific, doable, and seeks a behavioral change 

15.   Tipsfor letting go of Irreconcilable differences

a.       Firstask your self if the other person’s position, while contrary to you, impactsyour life.

                                                              i.     If it doesn’t, then it is probably best to tellyourself “They can think whoever they want, and I don’t have to agree with themand they don’t have to agree with me.”

                                                            ii.     If it does, ask yourself how you can minimizethe impact. It might be to avoid them at events, it might be to work with themto find some compromise that allows both of you to get some of what you want.

                                                           iii.     If nothing else find a neutral party and see ifthey can help you reach a middle ground.

16.   SCAspecifics

a.       Howdo you deal with people who have power (or think that they do)?

                                                              i.     Stroking (10E)

                                                            ii.     Negotiation (11)

                                                           iii.     Active listening (7, 8)

b.      Howdo you deal with people who think they know better than you?

                                                              i.     Clouding, Assertive preference (6)

                                                            ii.     Setting limits (13) might also be useful inthese situations

c.       Howdo you deal with people who want to tell you how to play or what to do?

                                                              i.     Clouding, Assertive Preference (6)

d.      Howdo you deal with rude or disrespectful people?

                                                              i.     Tell them. (10d) is good for this. Using an Istatement to express that the person has done or said something which you takeas an offense. I statements help keep defensiveness down and allow them to beable to hear you and respond.

e.      Howdo I tell a [Duke/Laurel/Pelican] that I think they are wrong?

                                                              i.     Tell them. Most of the time they are going to beopen to feedback. They might not agree with you and might know something youdon’t. They might have once thought the same thing and have come to learn thatthey were wrong.

                                                            ii.     An Assertive Statement (14) can be very good forstarting a conversation about how you would like someone to do thingsdifferently.

17.   Questions?

Posted by: Kita Jiru Toramassa Kingdom Seneschal on 11/14/2011

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