1. Don't get Hooked !!!
When people behave towards you in a manner that makes you
feel angry, frustrated or annoyed - this is known as a Hook.
We can even become "Hooked" by the way people look, how they
talk, how they smell and even by their general demeanour.
If we take the bait then we are allowing the other person to
control our behaviour. This can then result in an
We have a choice whether we decided to get hooked or stay
2. Don't let them get to you.
We often allow the other persons attitude to irritate or
annoy us. This becomes obvious to the other person through
our tone of voice and our body language. This only fuels a
When dealing with difficult people, stay out of it
emotionally and concentrate on listening non-defensively and
actively. People may make disparaging and emotional remarks
- don't rise to the bait!
3. Listen - listen - listen
Look and sound like you're listening. - When face-to-face
you need to look interested, nod your head and keep good eye
contact. Over the 'phone - you need to make the occasional
"Uh Hu - I See"
If the other person senses that you care and that you're
interested in their problem, then they're likely to become
4. Get all the facts - write them down.
Repeat back (paraphrase) the problem to ensure your
understanding and to let the other person know that you are
5. Use names
A persons name is one of the warmest sounds they hear. It
says that you have recognised them as an individual.
It is important not to overdo it as it may come across as
patronising to the other person.
Make sure they know your name and that you'll take ownership
for the problem.
6. DON'T blame someone or something else.
7. Watch out for people's egos
" Don't interrupt
" Don't argue
" Don't jump in with solutions
" Allow them to let off steam
" Don't say, "Calm down".
8. See it from the other person's point of view
Too often we think the "difficult" person is making too much
fuss. We think - "What's the big deal; I'll fix it right
away". It is a big deal for the other person and they want
you to appreciate it.
You don't necessarily need to agree with the person however
you accept the fact that it's a problem for them.
9. Be very aware of your body language and tone of voice
We often exacerbate a situation without realising it. Our
tone of voice and our body language can often contradict
what we're saying. We may be saying sorry however our tone
and our body language may be communicating our frustration
and annoyance. People listen with their eyes and will set
greater credence on how you say something rather than what
It's also important to use a warm tone of voice when dealing
with a difficult situation. This doesn't mean being "nicey-
nicey" or behaving in a non-assertive manner.
10. Words to avoid
There are certain trigger words that can cause people to
become more difficult especially in emotionally charged
situations. These include:
"You have to" -
"I want you to" -
"I need you to" -
"It's company policy" -
"I can't or You can't" -
"Jargon" or "Buzz" words -
"I'll try" -
11. Stop saying Sorry
Sorry is an overused word, everyone says it when something
goes wrong and it has lost its value.
How often have you heard - "Sorry 'bout that, give me the
details and I'll sort this out for you." Far better to say -
"I apologise for ?."
And if you really need to use the "sorry" word, make sure to
include it as part of a full sentence. "I'm sorry you
haven't received that information as promised Mr Smith."
(Again, it's good practise to use the person's name).
There are other things you can say instead of sorry -
The important thing to realise when dealing with a difficult
person is to:
Deal with their feelings - then deal with their problem.
Using empathy is an effective way to deal with a person's
feelings. Empathy isn't about agreement, only acceptance of
what the person is saying and feeling. Basically the message
is - "I understand how you feel."
Obviously this has to be a genuine response, the person will
realise if you're insincere and they'll feel patronised.
Examples of an empathy response would be - "I can understand
that you're angry," or "I see what you mean." Again, these
responses need to be genuine.
13. Build Rapport
Sometimes it's useful to add another phrase to the empathy
response, including yourself in the picture. - "I can
understand how you feel, I don't like it either when that
happens to me" This has the effect of getting on the other
persons side and builds rapport.
Some people get concerned when using this response, as they
believe it'll lead to "Well why don't you do something about
The majority of people won't respond this way if they
realise that you are a reasonable and caring person. If they
do, then continue empathising and tell the person what
you'll do about the situation.
14. Under promise - over deliver
Whatever you say to resolve a situation, don't make a rod
for your own back. We are often tempted in a difficult
situation to make promises that are difficult to keep. We
say things like - "I'll get this sorted this afternoon and
phone you back." It may be difficult to get it sorted "this
afternoon". Far better to say - "I'll get this sorted by
tomorrow lunchtime." Then phone them back that afternoon or
early the next morning and they'll think you're great.
You don't win them all
Remember, everyone gets a little mad from time to time, and
you won't always be able to placate everyone, - there's no
magic formula. However, the majority of people in this world
are reasonable people and if you treat them as such, then
they're more likely to respond in a positive manner.
Some more thoughts
These notes are primarily designed to help deal with
difficult people when we have made a mistake. We often have
to deal with other people where we have not made a mistake
however the people we're dealing with often prove to be
difficult and unwilling to accept what we say.
We therefore need to demonstrate assertive behaviour that
helps us communicate clearly and confidently our needs,
wants and feelings to other people without abusing in any
way their human rights.
Some books to read
A Woman in Your Own Right - Anne Dickson
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
Irresistibility - Philippa Davis
Why Men don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps -
Allan & Barbara Pease
Alan Fairweather is the author of four ebooks in the "How
to get More Sales" series. Lots of practical actions you
can take to build your business and motivate your team.-