Dealing with difficult people

Soft skills are the solution to dealing with difficult people

The negative effects of dealing with difficult people at work

Our experience shows that dealing with difficult people at work can be a source of stress and frustration. It decreases work satisfaction. The situation puts pressure on the ability to cooperate. It causes tensions and conflicts, depresses performance and productivity, leads to people changing jobs, and even makes them ill.

Having to deal with difficult people is painful, may control your life and it definitely requires a solution. When the problem persists it may determine your experience in such a way that it becomes almost impossible to remember what to do adequately.

Here we describe our take on dealing with difficult people, using soft skills as the solution. At the end of the article we listed how coaching supports you in dealing with difficult people, by confidently applying the necessary soft skills.

You can find our other articles on dealing with difficult people in the category Dealing with difficult people.

Regardless of whether the ‘difficult people’ are difficult colleagues, a difficult boss, or difficult employees: you need a solution that works. This solution has to enable you to cooperate with these ‘difficult people’ in getting the required (business) results. Preferably, without causing you any form of weariness, frustration or limitation.

What do you need to reach this new situation?

What do you need to deal effectively with difficult people?

To deal with difficult people successfully you have to know what makes it easy for you. This is essential, because most people only act with confidence on what is easy for them. Confidence is what you need to deal with difficult people in a way that solves the difficulty, maintains the relationship, promotes your interests and achieves the necessary results. How do you become confident in dealing with difficult people?

Soft skills are the solution to dealing with difficult people

‘Difficult’ actually means: not easy. Most ‘difficult people’ aren’t really difficult. They do or represent something that you think is difficult, or rather: not easy.

In most cases you can put the difficulty at hand to rest by either letting it be, or by answering it quietly but suitably. To be able to perform such a task you require the right soft skills.

The exact soft skills that you need and their concrete application are always an individual matter. It depends on the specific circumstances. More importantly, it depends on what you personally experience mentally, emotionally and physically when you are confronted with ‘difficult people’. Your reaction is even dependent on your purpose and values. We can help you identify what soft skills you need specifically to deal with the people you find difficult.

Examples of the kind of soft skills that are appropriate in dealing with difficult people are:

  • Self-confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • Social empathy
  • Self-responsibility
  • Listening and communication skills
  • Recognizing emotional and mental triggers
  • Dealing with those triggers in yourself and others
  • Handling conflict
  • Responding to confrontation
  • Giving effective feedback
  • Receiving feedback
  • Resilience

Dealing with difficult people begins with you

The goal of coaching in this respect is to first establish what soft skills you would need and what this means in your circumstances. It might be different if a colleague, a boss, a client, or an employee causes the difficulty. The difference is both in what causes the specific difficulty for you and what the appropriate response would be.

In coaching, it is decisive to find the way to make it doable for you. This is a very personal matter. It is determined by your history, your self-image, your experience and e.g. the possibility to explore and assess what works for you. It is necessary to establish what enables you to have confidence in applying the relevant soft skills in dealing with those people you experience as difficult.

In this way you will learn to experience control over the situation. You will be able to respond appropriately and effectively to the issue. You will not on the defensive or on the offensive. Neither defensiveness nor offensiveness is productive in dealing with people (difficult or otherwise).

By acting defensively you teach yourself that giving way is an appropriate response. It never is. At best it’s only a temporary ‘relief’.

By acting offensively, you also don’t address the issue. Instead you run the risk of undermining the relationship further, and potentially becoming a ‘difficult person’ yourself. You might ‘win’ temporally. When you use the appropriate soft skills you always win socially, as well as resolving the issue.

A permanent solution to dealing with difficult people

In general people recognize self-control and giving socially adequate responses to difficult people as a sign of professional and personal leadership. You are seen as someone to rely on. By answering a difficult issue with people in a way that facilitates a solution you serve your own interests in the best possible manner. It also creates the space and time for a solution that works permanently.

That is what being able to use the right soft skills offers you. The best part of it is that you are already adequate at most of it – you might just need some coaching to make you aware of it, and hone your skills.

The results of coaching in dealing with difficult people

These are some of the results coaching in dealing with difficult people enable you to achieve.

  • Working productively with others, whatever their (cultural) background or hierarchical position.
  • Developing your social skills.
  • Strengthening self-confidence.
  • Building better relationships.
  • The ability to relate actively to others, even when they are difficult to deal with.
  • Getting the results you need despite difficult behavior from others.
  • Cooperating with people that have divergent interests.
  • Effective communication in bypassing opposition.
  • Enhancing your ability to strengthen confidence and trust.
  • Saying what has to be said with calm and peace of mind.