It’s inevitable that you’ll encounter people with whom you disagree. There are some people you instantly click with and others you can take or leave. And then, there are the select few you just can’t stand!
How can you get along with someone you find difficult, distasteful or downright obnoxious? Well, it helps to remember that you aren’t perfect either. Remember that whatever you might feel about a person, someone else might feel the same about you. We’re all human, after all. We all have our faults.
It’s usually possible just to avoid people you don’t get along with. However, at some point you may have to work with someone you dislike. That may seem tough, but you can work with (almost) anyone if you just keep a few things in mind. In fact, by using these tips, you might find that a challenging person can still offer useful insights. They may even be able to help you see things from a different perspective.
Successful people understand that if you restrict who you can work with you are only limiting yourself. Use these 11 strategies to empower yourself to deal with even the most difficult people.
1. Accept that you aren’t going to like everyone.
The truth is, we aren’t going to like everyone we meet. The first step when dealing with a cantankerous individual is accepting that you aren’t going to get along with some people, and that’s okay.
Not liking them doesn’t make you a bad person — nor does it make the other person isn’t fundamentally awful (at least, probably not). But, we all do have to find a way to get along and work with each other. Acknowledging that you clash with someone, without judging who is right or wrong, can remove the strong emotions that often accompany difficult relationships.
2. Stay mindful of your emotions.
Dealing with someone who rubs you the wrong way can have a negative effect on your own emotions. A toxic person can drive you crazy . . . but only if you let them. Remember, only you have power over your emotional state. Don’t allow a negative or toxic person to influence your state of mind.
That doesn’t mean that you ignore the person or disregard how they make you feel. Recognize that your emotions, such as irritation and annoyance, are scaling up. If someone is making you angry, let yourself feel that emotion and then let those feelings dissipate. And remember, sometimes all you need to do is smile and nod. There’s no need to engage.
3. Choose tact over temper.
Learn to cultivate a diplomatic poker face — this is key in learning to treat all people with civility and politeness. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone you dislike or go along with what they say. You just need to maintain a consistent level of decorum when interacting with them.
Be soft on the person, but firm on the issue. This means that you focus on the issues that need to be corrected rather than attack someone personally. If you learn to do this consistently, you will always come across as professional and positive, which will give you the upper hand in all situations.
4. Don’t take it personally.
Often people do what they do because of themselves, not because of you. They may be reacting to something in their own circumstances, and it’s just a coincidence that you ended up in their crosshairs. Try widening your perspective on the situation. A broader view can often reduce misunderstanding.
You can also be proactive when dealing with someone you know can provoke you. Think of multiple ways of reacting calmly and decisively. Have a clear picture in your mind of how you’ll respond. This can help you avoid a ping-pong effect, in which you overreact to them and they overreact to you in return. Remember that every situation involves both the person you are communicating with and the issue you are discussing. Concentrate on the issue, not the person.
5. Rise above the irrational.
It’s easy to react emotionally to a toxic person, especially if their behavior seems ridiculous and frustrating. But, if you stoop to their level and become embroiled in disputes, you may also be labeled a troublemaker.
Don’t let your emotions get the best of you or allow yourself to be consumed by their antics. Remember that you don’t need to respond to their chaos. You can choose to rise above it by focusing on facts and rational responses. Point out specific issues or problems if need be, but do so diplomatically.
6. Calmly express your feelings.
Often, it’s the way we communicate that leads to bigger problems. If someone’s behavior and communication style annoys you, it may be time to have an honest talk about how you feel. The key is to do so calmly and in a nonconfrontational but assertive way.
Non-accusatory language involves making “I” statements. The goal is to clearly and non-aggressively express how you feel and their role in your current state without blaming them. One formula you can use goes like this: “When you _____, I feel _____. Please do this instead: _______.”
Be as specific as possible when telling someone which behaviors make you upset and what you would like them to do to correct the problem. And, once you’ve expressed yourself, be open to hearing their side.
7. Pick your battles.
Not all things are worth your time and attention. Sometimes dealing with a noxious person is like reasoning with a toddler in a tantrum: They just don’t deserve your energy or engagement. Ask yourself if you really want to get caught in a protracted argument about an issue you can sidestep. Is the ultimate benefit worth the challenge? Do you have more to lose than win?
Consider if the issue is situational, in which case it may dissolve or dissipate with time. Also, sometimes a quarrelsome person serves to benefit us in other ways. It may be in your best interest to put up with their idiosyncrasies if they are helping you more than hurting you.
8. Give yourself space.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put up a roadblock that keeps a septic co-worker at bay? A physical barrier may not possible, but you can still establish boundaries and decide when and how you interact with others by setting limits on how much time you spend with them. Give yourself breathing room so the person doesn’t overwhelm you.
Disconnect from them emotionally, and physically separate yourself from situations you know will likely lead to negative interactions. If you know you’re going into an emotionally charged situation, take a deep breath and calm your mind before heading in.
9. Forge a support system.
Don’t go into battle alone — find people to support you. Trying to tackle a difficult person or a septic relationship on your own will likely backfire, because it’s hard to gain perspective when you feel entrenched.
Find trusted, like-minded people who will help you feel supported and less alone. They can bring objectivity to the situation and help brainstorm ways to deal with a difficult person. And, sometimes all we really want is to vent and feel heard. Once we feel validated, we’ll be able to move on. Knowing that your peeps have your back can give you the resilience and strength to handle almost anything.
10. Equalize power in how you communicate.
If someone is constantly needling you and focusing on your flaws, you can equalize the power dynamic by applying pressure on them to reduce their difficult behavior. Don’t react defensively when someone is overly scrutinizing or being overly aggressive with you. This will only give them more power. Instead, flip the script and put the spotlight on them. The best way to neutralize their influence is to start asking constructive and probing questions.
If they are trying to negate or belittle your work, ask them for specific criticism. Ask if they have clearly communicated their expectations. If they are being disrespectful or bullying, call them on it. Let them know you expect to be treated with a level of civility, and in turn you must treat them the same way.
11. You are the master of your own happiness.
Never let a toxic person limit your joy or control the source of your self-satisfaction. Don’t let snide comments or anxiety override you, or let someone’s opinion darken your day. Stop looking to others to acknowledge your accomplishments or vindicate your achievements. Instead, turn your focus inward.
Take a moment to reflect on yourself. Perhaps what you don’t like in another person is something you also struggle with yourself. Understanding where your frustration comes from can help diminish its power over you. And remember, you have ultimate control over yourself and your mental state. Stop comparing yourself to others, and always keep in mind that your self-worth must come from within.
Deep Patel is a young writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. In the book, he interviewed 15 industry luminaries including professors, entrepreneurs, CEO’s and Gene…
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