Saturday, July 24, 2010

Coping With Difficult People...

The book of the week was Coping With Difficult People by Robert M. Bramson. I really like this book. I think that encountering difficult people is a daily occurrence for most people nowadays. The worst part about dealing with difficult people is they slow you down. They break down the decision making process by over analyzing, focusing on the negative, stalling, bulldozing, clamming up, the list goes on...

Since these encounters are becoming a daily occurrence, it is imperative that you learn to 'cope' with these people. That is where Bramson comes into play. He is an expert on organizational decision making. The book covers about 15 different personalities, but I am going to focus on just a few...


It drives me crazy when people clam up during a conversation. Especially when they alone hold the information that you are seeking to make a good decision. This personality is very difficult to deal with because it is natural for us to avoid silence. When you have someone clam up on you, you'll fill the silence with your own words. The trick to dealing with these people is asking open ended questions, so you avoid their "yes or no" responses. Additionally, when the Clam gets really tough, call them out on it. If you ask a questions and they are all the sudden mute, ask them again and address their silence. Say "I asked you a questions, is there a reason you are not talking? Are you afraid how I may react?" You may have to continue to chip away at their silence, but in time, they will start to converse.


It's really easy to be negative. You can pull a negative idea out of any situation. And it is good to understand the pros and cons of any situation to make the most effective decision. However, there are people out there that dwell on the negative and use them as prime reason to not do everything. This puts a stand-still to any new initiatives and depending on the source of your negative energy, they may suck everyone down with them. And the tricks to dealing with these people: Don't argue against them, they will start throwing a fit most of the time and it further defeats the goal of making a decision. Make optimistic but realistic statements about past successes, be alert to all the body languages of everyone at the table- including the negativist, and be ready to stand your ground and announce plans to take action without equivocation.

The Complainer

Like negativists, Complainers are a dime a dozen. Some people just love to complain... non-stop. They complain about policies and procedures, other employees, the tools they use, you name it, they will find a complaint for it. It is not at all conducive to a good working environment. Here is how you deal with these people... Listen, yes listen, to everything they are complaining about. Actively listen to them. Acknowledge their complaint by paraphrasing it back to them. Make sure you don't apologize or agree with what they are saying and then help them problem solve for the complaint. If they reject the problem solving at first, insist that complaining won't do any good and that your solution is a way to get it fixed. If all else fails ask the complainer, "How would you like this conversation to end?"

It is essential we learn to deal with difficult people if we intend to work as efficiently as possible. Books like this are a great source to ways to cope with them. Some of the techniques laid out in this book are extremely simple, and that is precisely why I like them so much. If the solution to cope with a difficult person is very complicated then you will never remember how to do it when the situation arises.

I recommend this book. I think it is very smart and easy to read. As always, if you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.

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