By Dr. Karyn

Unless you live in total isolation (which I hope describes none of you!), you are going to encounter what I like to call ‘tricky people’ at some point. Whether it’s a co-worker, a family member or someone in our social circles, there is simply no escaping those people that somehow just know how to push our buttons, intentionally or not.

According to conflict expert Jagoda Perich-Anderson, 67% of employees would prefer to avoid a difficult colleague to reduce bad feelings due to conflict, rather than deal with them head on.

And while avoidance may be a short-term solution, whether in the workplace or at a family gathering, it will not resolve the resulting feelings of unhappiness and disempowerment. So how can we best deal with these people that are part of our everyday lives? I encourage you to think of ‘tricky people’ as an opportunity! I tell my kids all the time, that the world is full of wonderful people and ‘tricky people’, both for young people and adults. The key is to learn how to recognize them, and to respond appropriately. I hope the 3 tips below will help you feel more empowered and optimistic in your professional and personal life! Enjoy!

TIP #1: Study The Pros

You know that colleague at work who seems to deal effortlessly with everyone? That person who never seems bothered or irritated by that ‘tricky person’ in the office? Study them! Exactly what is it that they do to calmly interact with those who manage to push other people’s buttons? Pay attention to their body language, the words they use, and how they respond, so you can learn how they cope with potentially stressful situations. If you are still not sure what they are doing different, just ask them. What’s their secret to not letting people get to them? Their answers may really surprise you!

TIP #2: Give Your Emotions A Workout

Just as important as learning from the pros, is to view your interactions with a difficult person as your ‘emotional trainer’. After all, the only way you can improve at something is by practice! When I was in my early twenties, I had a part-time job while I was putting myself through school and I learned the power of this concept. My manager was an extremely difficult person to deal with and I had to learn very quickly the best way to approach each interaction. I soon discovered that her criticism and constant negativity didn’t have to dictate the way I felt. In fact, by being intentionally positive towards her, not only did I avoid ‘mirroring’ her behavior, a trap we can all fall into in such situations, but I actually felt more assertive and empowered. It was a powerful learning opportunity that taught me no one else can make me feel anything. It is always my choice how I interpret and respond to others.

So, whether it’s your mother-in-law or a difficult boss, make it a personal challenge to interact with that person in a manner that is cool and calm, drawing on your Emotional Intelligence so you remain stress-free throughout the encounter. Just think to yourself – how would you recommend your child to respond in exactly the same situation? Then try to follow your own advice.

TIP #3: Be Prepared

Family get-togethers are times when we often encounter tricky people – those family members who we just know will end up “pushing our buttons”! The key step for being able to calmly navigate these types of situations is to be prepared! Think ahead of time, what do you think they will say or do that may irritate you? People are very habitual so you will likely be able to think of a few examples. Next, strategize what you would want to say and do when they say that comment. One hint I recommend in these situations is to acknowledge the other person’s opinion but do not engage. My favorite strategy is to have a quick 1-liner in your ‘back-pocket’ so you are 100% prepared, such as “that’s interesting” or “well, that’s one way of looking at it”, and then promptly change the subject. Knowing 1-2 quick, neutral yet respectful one-liners, will help you act rationally and calmly especially in emotionally-charged situations, so you can truly enjoy your family time!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

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