Difficult People Part 3 – meeting them

I covered some key reasons for finding a person ‘difficult’ in Part 1.   And a way of preparing to meet in Part 2.


Now I want to consider the meeting itself.


Some general points that could be of assistance are:


–        You can only control how you react to the ‘difficult’ person
–        All behaviours have a positive intent e.g. a client of mine said that when responding sarcastically, he was just trying to start communication as he thought it was needed
–       Avoid absolutes (e.g. always, never) even when thinking about the person as well as when speaking with the person
–       Words often bring to mind different things to different people: when using the value cards with one client ‘choice’ came out as one of their core values – by this they had in mind having the choice to be different from their siblings.  For me it brings to mind recognising the choices I have available.  What does it bring to your mind?
When two people relate both play a part in what takes place – the responses and interpretation of responses
–       You won’t win them all – you can’t please everyone all of the time



Depending on what you want to say the following structure may be of interest:


–        describe the situation factually e.g. “I notice ….”

–        describe what you imagine from observing this e.g. “and I’m in danger of assuming …” or “and I imagine ….”

–        express your feelings e.g. “as a result I’m feeling …”.

–        ask how they saw it  e.g “and I’m interested to know how you saw it”

–        at some stage you may find the need to say what you would like to come out of this discussion e.g. “what I’d like from discussing this with you is …”



Now let’s review what to keep in mind when meeting each other.


OK, here are some basic suggestions, most of which I suspect you probably already know!


  1. Remember how you want to be with the person.  I’m assuming you have chosen a way that will support you.  AND you may benefit from considering which of your personal values will help you be in a good state of mind.
  2. Give yourself a bit of time to think before you act.  For instance, you could check your understanding.
  3. Spot any filters that you are using when listening to the person. Just noticing and acknowledging their presence helps. Putting aside any negative filter(s) may be too much to ask of yourself, and yet it is worth having a go.
  4. Observe your emotional response(s). You are feeling your thinking.  And usually the way you respond relates to your feeling.  Your thinking is just that … your thinking.  It’s not ‘the truth’ or ‘reality’, it’s just your thinking’s interpretation of it.  It is the key step if you can recognise this to be the case – really recognise it, not just nod in its direction.  You may find it helpful to reflect at some stage about what it is that has caused your emotional response(s).  This may include the impact of certain filters, the person’s body language, tone of voice and/or the words spoken.  Or that they remind you of an aspect of yourself you don’t like!
  5. Acknowledge to yourself what you feel like doing.  Acknowledging it to yourself quite often reduces its power over you and gives you a brief opportunity to consider what other options are available to you (in future I’ll do a blog about ‘accepting yourself’).
  6. Remember the responses you prepared.  And use them appropriately – tone of voice and speed of delivery will impact how they will be heard (and your body language of course).
  1. When verbally responding, remember to own your perceptions (say ‘I’) as this will reduce the chance of it coming across as an accusation or blame; for example say ‘I notice your voice is raised and I’m feeling scared’ rather than ‘you are shouting and scaring me’.



I’d love to hear from you about what you already do that works in some situations when faced with a type of person you find difficult.  I am always interested to learn about more approaches.


All the best