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Dare to be Different

Friday, October 10, 2014 - 10:16

Guest post by Kerry Anne Cassidy

Do you have people that you work with that you prefer to avoid because they cause you to feel emotions you prefer not to feel?  Like anxiety, anger, guilt or shame?

No matter who you are, there will always be people who you find harder to approach and work with than others.  And rather than avoiding them, we have to try and find ways to work with them that brings out the best in both of you.

But how can you do this when the situation seems hopeless?

Three tips to help you get started

1. You cannot change others
The first step is to understand and acknowledge that you cannot change others.  You can change yourself and the way you respond to them but you cannot change them.  So, they may remain short, abrupt and impatient but you can change the way that you respond to this behaviour to get a different outcome.  You could do this using a reframe, empathy or even asking a question like: what is this person like when they are at their best?

2. What’s your hot button?
Second up, a crucial part of emotional intelligence is the ability to become aware of those situations or people that make you feel uncomfortable or anxious about.  What is it exactly that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious – if you can understand what is driving this behaviour, often you can find solutions to overcome those situations

3. Find something to like
The third tip is about liking. Think for a moment of the person who gives you a headache…  What exactly is it about them that makes them difficult to deal with?

  • Is it their tone of voice when speaking with you?
  • Is it their delivery?
  • Is it their choice of words?
  • Is it the way they roll their eyes at you when delivering a request

There could be a whole host of reasons that make them difficult to deal with but by far the most common reason that you don’t get along with Sally or Peter is because very often they are just not like you.

Think about it…

Am I right?

Robert Cialdini author of the bestselling book Influence says that we are most likely to be influenced by people we like. And the reason for this is because if I know you like me, I can let the walls come down and I can be myself.

What can you do to find something in common with the person you don’t like?  How can you find that “something to like” that will be genuine and allow you to see them in a more positive light?

Two ways to get a different result

Ok, so now we have our mind right, how do we approach them in a way that gets a different result?

1. Start with heart
The authors of the book, crucial conversations say it best: You have to START with HEART. In order to have a conversation that counts, you have to focus on what you really want from the other person and the result you ultimately want for both of you.

When we have been hurt by the other person it can be difficult to be rational and reasonable about them.  Our motives become something that get in the way of us wanting to overcome the difficulties we experience with that person. Chances are that if your motives are to win, to punish or to keep the peace, you will not get a good result.

So, ask yourself these questions to determine your motives:

  • What am I doing or thinking right now about the other person and situation?
  • And, what does this tell me about my underlying motive?
  • How would I behave if I really wanted results?

Chances are, if you ask these 3 questions, even though your first response may be to react from emotion, you will be able to rise above the defensiveness, blame, judgments and move to dialogue with the difficult person.

2. Beware of fool’s choices

Fool’s choices are where we see our options as being unnecessarily limited in terms of EITHER OR.  An example could sound like, “He / she had either better listen to me or I am going to report him/her…”

When we tell ourselves these stories, we block our ability to overcome our negative feelings and rise above them. So, a better way of dealing with the EITHER OR scenario so that we can have both a result and the relationship is by asking the following questions:

  • What do I really want
  • What do I really NOT want
  • Combine the above into one sentence

This is really powerful because instead of limiting our possible outcomes with the difficult person, we now have a way to positively resolve and get what will be helpful to both of us.

It could sound like this:

“What I really want is for you to let me finish what I am saying rather than interrupting me.  What I don’t want is for us to damage our relationship over this issue.”

So, we have looked at three tips to getting started with dealing with difficult people more positively and two ways to get a different result.  I hope that this has been helpful and now I want you to think about how you could apply this learning.


Kerry Anne Cassidy is the Founder and Lead Facilitator at Skill Junction, a professional leadership and training company dedicated to accelerating your career development as a new manager or supervisor.  You can visit www.skilljunction.com.au or email her atinfo@skilljunction.com.au to find out more about how she can help you get ahead.