Difficult People

The people we interact with can be hostile. It could look like they're angry, talkative, demanding, indecisive, impatient or just plain intimidating.  It's a struggle to find and keep that zen state of calm when you want to run and hide or confront and scream.  What should we do?  


There are 3 to 5 possible steps we can take.  Let's take a look at what they include:


Listen You have to let them get "it" (whatever "it" is) off of their chest.  Allowing people to have the opportunity to tell you their problems usually goes a long way to drawing off the hostility.  At a minimum, you'll have moved closer to results rather than confrontation.  Support them, even if you think they've taken the shortest route to Crazytown.  Just because you don't see a situation the same way that they do, does not immediately invalidated their opinion or feelings.


Own It If a mistake has been made, own up to it.  It won't matter to them if it was your mistake personally or not, but own up to the fact that a mistake has been made.  If you can, apologize.  You don't have to do it from yourself if the circumstances don't warrant that, but definitely it should be done on behalf of your team/company.  Big tip?  Do not ever apologize for how they feel.  The minute you do that, you're invalidating them again and it will blow up on you all over again.  If an apology isn't appropriate or isn't all that's needed, solve the issue.  Don't wait, show them that you're making it a priority and handle it now.


Tell Your Boss You never know if someone will continue to hold onto a problem or grudge even after you resolve it and if you're the last person they interact with on the topic, it will be you they remember. If they go to a supervisor or manager, you want to be ahead of it.  Getting in front of that conversation can be a huge bonus. Even if they don't go to your supervisor or manager, speaking with one could be a good decision.  Perhaps there is a policy you're not aware or perhaps they can authorize a different course of action.


End Positively You don't want them to go away still hostile.  Be gracious and express gratitude that they told you and let you fix it.  Thank them for the learning opportunity and enumerate a way you can improve for next time.

Enough is Enough If someone is still difficult or hostile when you're finished the interaction, know when to call it quits and escalate the issue.  Sometimes you just can't end things positively and then it's up to your supervisor or security to step in and handle the situation, allowing you to back out gracefully.


What can you take away from this?  One, that sometimes setting aside your own ego to put the effort in to satisfy a difficult/hostile person is needed.  Just because you perceive them as a problem doesn't mean they're part of the "All About Me Show".  Two, that every interaction is an opportunity.  Whether it's a chance to learn, improve process or just make someone's day better, it's an opportunity that should not be left behind.  And finally, taking the time to look at issues from someone else's viewpoint is not a bad thing.  Empathizing with people can actually make your job easier and more pleasant.

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