Dealing with Difficult People

Having to deal with people who like to push your buttons?  Psychologist Michael Friedrichs, Ph.D., says difficult people are often bullies and he joined us to share his six anti-bully techniques:

  1. Make like a potted plant. Oscar Wilde said, “always forgive your enemies… nothing annoys them so much!” (a) this makes you boring to them, and (b) lots of things are overcome by time because they never mattered in the first place.  Never SHOOT OFF an e-mail in anger.
  2. STOP trying to be understood. Focus only on THEIR point of view. Give them respect, adoration, sympathy… whatever. It doesn’t cost you a thing, and you have all the power.  This is especially true if you are new at a job. Business psychologists call this earning “idiosyncrasy credits”.
  3. Show up at events. Don’t marginalize yourself. People dislike people they don’t know. If you go to every event, be it work or family, you become part of the pack. You are more likely to have positive interactions with the bully. They’ll turn their attention elsewhere.
  4. Keep it FORMAL. Focus on actionable items, never personal ones, or personality flaws. Take refuge in the company bi-laws and values, e.g., “we have a chain of command”. ALWAYS DO IT IN PRIVATE, and avoid the word “YOU”.
  5. Keep a JERK diary. In the event that you absolutely MUST report a behavior, such as the threat of violence, you will want to have carefully documented evidence of every account leading up to this. By this I mean dates and times. Be sure to include occasions when you PRIVATELY brought your concerns to the bully’s attention. 
  6. The Mirror Technique. Use this if with a bully who is attacking you personally. Treat your enemies in the moment as if you were addressing yourself. 

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