It came in the mail today, one of the many Career Track, Fred Pryor or Skill Path seminar company brochures that I receive, and this one was about Dealing with Difficult People. I used to teach that class and I even began to think, “Oh, maybe we should incorporate some difficult people strategies into our Executive Leadership Conference in November”. But then I thought, “Wait a minute! Why are people still dealing with difficult people?” Why are you?
Now, I know we can’t just eliminate all the difficult people in your office or fire them all at one time. Though some of you have shared any number of creative strategies over the years, but I would offer that dealing with difficult employees might be more of our choosing than what is required. What if there was a way to stop encountering difficult employees or difficult people all together? Here are three methods I’ve run across.
If you read books by Michael Losier and Esther and Jerry Hicks, both share that as the leader of your own life and what you experience, you can only experience that which you invite into your life. Now, that seems simple and it is, but it can take a little practice. One way to stop inviting the difficult person into your life or into the team you lead, is to stop anticipating, worrying over, and fretting about bumping into him or her in the hall in the morning. Instead of essentially bracing for impact, making that difficult encounter your point of focus, think about all the things you’ll accomplish today instead and see what happens.
When you refer to others as difficult, that label comes with expectations of behavior. In other words, difficult people might argue, show up late, back talk, defy your leadership direction, or be contagious in a negative way. If that is what you are expecting to see, scientifically and physiologically, your brain will make every effort to alert you when those things happen and you’ll see them more so than you might have with different expectations. The same works in the reverse, if you expect to see someone who has different behavior that doesn’t’ really bother you then your brain will still point out the differences, but will not set off all the bells and sirens putting the need for stress and “Handling difficulty” on high alert.
Everyone’s threshold or tolerance for stress, and their definition of what is stress-FUL is different. Much like people are different. However, if you have decided that one person’s “differences” are more than enough to trigger stressed out (also known as negative) responses or behaviors, then his or her differences will continue to elicit the reactions that raise your blood pressure. Keep in mind, you decided what was stressful. Essentially, this person is now seen as difficult because you “said so”. Hmmm… could you say differently? Sure. And if you do, remember that different poses no need for alarm or stress for most people. However “difficult” might hurt you or cause you pain, so your body and brain prepares for battle.
As Contagious Leaders, of ourselves and of others, our behavior rubs off on everyone we come in contact with, but, so does our mindset, our perception, and our tolerance. Don’t you think those you lead are looking to you at times to determine what their own levels and reactions should be? You bet they are. So, is that person really difficult or are they different? And are you going to deal with them, fire them because they are different, or … might you do something different today?