How to Work With Difficult People

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Occasionally, I run into advice I wish I'd encountered years before, and a Forbes piece titled "5 Ways To Work Effectively With Someone You Really Don't Like" would certainly fit that description.

Interestingly for this one, wishing I'd encountered the advice and whether I would have profited much from it at the time are two different matters.

For example, as the first person from my lower middle class family to attend college, there was a lot I didn't know about regarding professional norms because, on top of being very introverted, I simply hadn't been exposed very much to those norms: And so it was that when I skipped out on an office appointment with my statistics professor, I had no idea at the moment what he meant when he later sternly told me That's unprofessional!

The piece reminds me in several ways of how frustrated I became because of a difficult person way back in my first real job after college. In retrospect, the guy was something of a jerk, but I can also see that I was quite difficult for him to work with, too. So, while I'm not quite ready to forgive that guy, I think it's fair that some of my difficulty with him arose from his own poor handling of his difficulty with me.

In any event, the following passage from Item 3, seek learning, provoked that bit of reflection:

Image by TheStandingDesk, via SOURCE, license.
Another effective way to work with someone you find difficult is to seek to learn from the interactions. Each time you're challenged, reflect on how you could have done better and explore how you might grow your own skills -- in listening, empathy or tolerance.

Also reflect on why the person triggers you. Sometimes there is a similarity to your own areas for development -- and what annoys you about them can help highlight ways you can grow. For example, their lack of follow through may drive you crazy, but you realize that you can work on your own responsiveness as well.

In addition, consider how you might learn from the way the other person is showing up. If they interrupt you or devalue you, use these behaviors to reinforce the importance of how you positively interact as an alternative. If they take credit for your work, remind yourself of how you want to consistently value other's contributions. Sometimes, learning what not to do is as powerful as seeing what works better.
Good stuff, and I'm glad I found it at a time I am better able to take advantage of it.

The other four sections are demonstrate respect, maintain perspective, be empathetic, and let go.

Life is too short to allow difficult people to ruin your day. Tracy Bower shows how you can greatly reduce this hazard and and turn it into a source of ideas for making yourself stronger all at once.

-- CAV

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