In Part 1 I covered some key reasons for finding a person ‘difficult’. Now I want to reflect on what may help you with people you find difficult. Actually, practically all of what follows is relevant regardless of whether or not you find the person ‘difficult’!
Here’s my take on what preparation to do. You may be attracted to what I propose – or parts of it – or may be not. Go with what attracts or interests you. If you attempt what doesn’t attract or interest you, you are likely to have in your mind, consciously or unconsciously, ‘well, I’ll try it but it won’t work’. Or words to that effect. And guess what? It won’t! Just because this suits me doesn’t mean it will suit you – and I don’t do it all the time!
You might feel a bit cack-handed (clumsy) when you first have a go. That is normal. You wouldn’t expect someone to be able to drive a car proficiently by reading about it. The same is true with this.
You may believe that you have little choice at present. In reality you have at least three types of choice:
1 the way you see the person: e.g. “he’s past changing”, she’s an impossible hurdle”, “I can be different in how I respond to him/her” – just a thought … would you find it useful to keep in mind that it’s usually the behaviour of the person that you find difficult rather the person as a whole?
2 how you want to be in relationship to the person: eg judgemental, disappointed, curious
3 what to do about it: usually this is where most people start, when it would be more beneficial to start with 1 and 2
So at some stage you are likely to want to (or have to) interact with this person, yes?
1 Before you do, gather information about the person you are meeting and the purpose of the meeting!
- What outcome(s) do you want to achieve from the meeting – what would you like to have happen? This is really the purpose of the meeting.
- What message(s) do you want to deliver successfully, if any?
- how do you want to be with the person?
- which of your personal values will help you be in a good state of mind? I find curiosity helps me in these sorts of situations.
- What needs to happen for it to be successful that you can influence? For instance, I find it helpful if I remind myself not to take myself too seriously! Well, quite often it’s my ego that’s getting in the way, so this reduces the likelihood that I don’t over-inflate my importance etc.
- When listening to them, what filters might come into play? Some filters you can pick up through noticing what your internal conversation is. You know the ones – “he’s just saying that, but doesn’t mean it”, “she’s trying to get rid of me and take on someone she can chose”, “I always get the difficult ones”. These filters affect how you interpret what you hear – and, therefore, how you see and respond to the person.
- When listening to them, apart from how you understand what they say, how else could it be understood? Do you remember Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’? Look it up on the Internet if you don’t. This was about looking at an issue from different perspectives.
- Apart from perceiving the person ‘difficult’, what is your part in this relationship? You are unlikely to need to do this step when you get on with the person! In what ways have your contributed to it? For example, your values, beliefs, emotions, responses, fears, needs, interests, non-verbal communication, give-and-take. This is linked to your choice about how you want to be in relationship with the person.
- What else might have contributed? For instance, lack of role/hierarchy clarity. Again you are unlikely to need to do this step when you get on with the person.
- What beliefs do you hold about this person? This may be based not only on your past experiences and responses to the person, but also what other people have said.
- How are your values similar and different?
- How are your working styles similar and different?
- How are your ways of thinking similar and different? These questions may help you to see the person in a more complete way.
2 Prepare what you want to say and/or do. Think of as many comments and queries that could arise – and have ready what you would like to say.
3 Take time to imagine this whole conversation going well – notice how you feel, what you see and hear. Capture the good feelings. And repeat this several times and at different times before you meet. When you find the person easy, then you are unlikely to need to do this step – unless it helps your feeling of confidence.
That’s it. I did say there was little difference to preparing for any such meeting!
We’ll cover the meeting itself in my next blog, and some more general points too.
All the best