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21 Expert Tips For Effective Communication With Difficult People

Updated: Jul 4, 2023


We communicate with people every day, but sometimes it can be challenging to deal with certain individuals, especially the difficult ones. You may feel stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed by their behavior.


However, effective communication can help alleviate tension and find common ground. In this blog post, we've gathered 21 tips that will help you communicate with difficult people more effectively. By following these tips, you can manage difficult situations with greater ease and achieve better outcomes.



Preparing Yourself


1. Stay Calm


Staying calm is crucial when dealing with difficult people. If you let their emotions affect you, you may find yourself becoming angry or frustrated. This can make the situation worse and harder to resolve. Instead, take deep breaths, remain objective, and don't take their behavior personally. By staying calm, you can de-escalate the situation and find a solution that works for everyone.


2. Prepare Mentally


Mental preparation is key to managing difficult people more effectively. Take a moment to clarify your goals and plan your approach before engaging with them. Identify what you want to achieve and how you will communicate your message.


Consider the other person's perspective and be flexible in your approach. By mentally preparing, you can approach the situation with greater confidence and clarity.


3. Maintain a Positive Attitude


It's easy to get caught up in negativity when dealing with difficult people, but it's important to remain optimistic. Reframe the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. Focus on the positive aspects of the situation and look for ways to improve the outcome. By maintaining a positive attitude, you can approach the situation with greater resilience and creativity.


4. Practice Self-Control


Dealing with difficult people can be emotional, and reacting impulsively can make the situation worse. Instead, practice self-control by taking a step back and thinking before you act. Take deep breaths, count to ten, or walk away if necessary. By practicing self-control, you can respond to difficult people in a way that is productive and effective.


5. Take a Break


Taking a break can give you the space you need to regroup and refocus. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and lose sight of your goals when dealing with difficult people. However, taking a break can help you gain perspective and renew your energy. Step away from the situation, take a walk, or engage in a relaxing activity. By taking a break, you can approach the situation with greater clarity and calm.


6. Don’t Take it Personally


It's easy to feel attacked or criticized when someone is acting out, but their behavior is often a reflection of their own issues, not yours. Avoid getting defensive or retaliating. Instead, try to understand their perspective and respond in a way that is respectful and assertive. By not taking it personally, you can respond to difficult people with greater empathy and effectiveness.


Listening and Responding


7. Active Listening and Empathy: Hear Them Out


Dealing with difficult people requires active listening and empathy, skills that involve giving your undivided attention, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing what the other person has said. It's essential to show that you're interested in their point of view and willing to understand their perspective.


Through empathy, you can connect with the difficult person and establish common ground. To apply this tip, put yourself in their shoes and listen actively without interrupting.


8. Communicate Clearly and Effectively: Choose Your Words Wisely


Effective communication is crucial when dealing with difficult people. It involves being concise and clear in your messages, using appropriate body language, and being mindful of your tone of voice. Your choice of words matters, as the wrong ones can escalate the situation.


Focus on the issue, not the person, and avoid blaming or accusing language. To apply this tip, pay attention to your communication style and concentrate on the matter at hand.


9. Practice Emotional Intelligence: Manage Your Emotions


Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions and those of others. It helps you remain calm and composed, even in stressful situations. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, effective emotion management, and sensitivity to others' emotions.


By practicing emotional intelligence, you can de-escalate tense situations and build better relationships with difficult people. To apply this tip, be aware of your emotions and how they affect your interactions with others.


10. Identify the Root Cause of the Problem: Get to the Bottom of It


To manage difficult people, understanding the root cause of the problem is crucial. It involves identifying the underlying issues that cause the difficult behavior and addressing them directly. For instance, if a colleague complains continually, they may feel overwhelmed or undervalued.


Finding solutions that address the root cause of the problem is more effective than merely treating the symptoms. To apply this tip, ask questions to identify the underlying cause of the problem.


Dealing with Difficult Behavior


11. Remain Professional


When dealing with difficult people, it's essential to remain professional. This means keeping a calm demeanor and speaking in a respectful tone. While it's easy to get caught up in emotions, it's important to maintain your composure and avoid personal attacks. Being professional sets the tone for the interaction and can help to prevent the situation from escalating.


12. Focus on the Issue, Not the Person


Focusing on the issue rather than the person is a critical aspect of managing difficult people. It's essential to address the behavior rather than attacking the individual. By separating the person from the problem, you can prevent the situation from escalating and find a solution that benefits everyone. While it may be tempting to make personal attacks, it's important to remain objective and avoid taking things personally.


13. Use Assertive Communication


Assertive communication is an effective way to communicate with difficult people. It involves being clear and direct about your needs while also respecting the other person's perspective. Using "I" statements rather than "you" statements and avoiding blaming or accusing language is crucial. Being assertive but respectful in your communication can help to de-escalate tense situations and prevent them from becoming confrontational.


14. Set Boundaries


Setting boundaries is an essential part of managing difficult people. It involves being clear about your expectations and asserting your rights when necessary. By identifying unacceptable behaviors and communicating them clearly to the difficult person, you can establish what is and is not acceptable behavior. This can help to prevent future conflicts and ensure that everyone involved is on the same page.


15. Don't Escalate the Situation


It's essential not to escalate the situation when dealing with difficult people. Reacting impulsively or becoming defensive can make the situation worse. Instead, practice self-control by acknowledging the other person's feelings and finding common ground. By staying calm and avoiding retaliation, you can de-escalate the situation and find a resolution that benefits everyone involved.


16. Avoid Defensiveness


Defensiveness can escalate the situation when dealing with difficult people. It involves being reactive and taking things personally. Instead of becoming defensive, try to remain objective and focus on finding a solution that benefits everyone. By being open to the other person's perspective and communicating your needs clearly, you can build better relationships and prevent future conflicts.


Finding Solutions


17. Finding Mutually Beneficial Solutions


When dealing with difficult people, finding solutions that benefit both parties can be incredibly beneficial. This approach involves seeking common ground and finding ways to satisfy both parties' needs. It's essential to remember that resolving a conflict is not about winning or losing, but finding a resolution that works for everyone involved. By keeping this in mind, you can approach the situation with a collaborative mindset.


18. Brainstorm Possible Solutions


Brainstorming can be an excellent tool when dealing with difficult people. This approach involves generating a list of possible solutions to a problem without evaluating or judging them. It allows for the exploration of different ideas and encourages creativity. Brainstorming can help identify new perspectives and approaches that you may not have considered before.


19. Be Willing to Compromise


Compromise is a valuable tool when dealing with difficult people. It involves finding a solution that meets the needs of both parties, even if it means making concessions. It requires a willingness to listen and be open-minded. Compromise involves being flexible and finding a middle ground that benefits everyone involved.


20. Offer Constructive Feedback


Constructive feedback can be incredibly helpful when dealing with difficult people. It involves providing feedback in a respectful and supportive way, with the aim of helping the other person improve their behavior. Constructive feedback should focus on specific behaviors and be delivered in a non-judgmental way. It's important to be clear about the behavior you would like to see change and offer suggestions for how the other person can improve.


21. Seek Mediation or Outside Help When Necessary


Sometimes, dealing with difficult people requires outside help. Mediation involves bringing in a neutral third party to help facilitate a discussion and find a resolution. It can be useful when communication has broken down, and the parties are unable to find a solution on their own. Seeking outside help can be a wise choice if the situation has become unmanageable, and a fresh perspective is needed to find a solution.


13 Reasons Why Managers Should Confront Difficult Employees

1. Difficult employees affect your entire workforce

Handling difficult employees is an essential part of any manager's job. Difficult employees can cause serious issues and disruption in the workplace, impacting other staff members, disrupting productivity and morale, and even damaging a company’s reputation. It is important to address difficult employees quickly and effectively before they become a bigger problem.


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