Others have developed lists from three to over a dozen different types of difficult people. For this article, I have pared the list down to four in hopes it will result in a manageable article length. Those four types are as follows:
- Ego Maniacs – These are people with such an inflated sense of self-importance that they become self-absorbed and hold little value for the thoughts and opinions of others. They are constantly saying and doing things which serve to devalue those around them. Ego maniacs also crave attention and thirst for praise while exhibiting an extreme sensitively to criticism.
- Passive/Aggressive – You can readily recognize this trait in someone by their constant negativity and passive resistance which often is displayed in behaviors such as procrastination, stubbornness and moodiness. This behavior stems from an underlying anger which the individual either cannot or will not express outwardly. On the surface, they will attempt to appear agreeable and cooperative while in actuality they sabotage the efforts of others.
- Gossips – Few can undermine trust and a cooperative atmosphere in a workplace than a gossip. Gossip is a destructive behavior but one that is too easy for many to fall into. Most of us have a sense of curiosity and want to know all the gory details of the latest blather. However, few gossips are truly concerned with the truth and the lies they spread can become a cancer that erodes any goodwill which may exist in your workplace.
- Constantly Angry – Anger is a legitimate human emotion but those who give their anger free rein cause havoc in the workplace. Yelling at others, accusing others, throwing tantrums and generally bullying those around them, these people create a huge amount of stress in an office causing people to dread the time they must spend there.
Each of these difficult personality types can be handled in specific ways. For the sake of brevity, I want to focus on just three things you can do to effectively begin to deal with these, and other toxic people.
Manage Your Emotions
You have very little, if any, control over another person. You have 100% control over yourself. While becoming angry or defensive may be most people’s natural response when confronting a difficult person, they are probably the least effective. You must choose to not allow anger to dictate your response. Instead, continue to speak in a controlled manner – in fact, lower the volume of your voice. Avoid using blaming terms or phrases such as “you make me…” or “you always…” Focus on the problem, not the personality and drive the conversation toward a solution for that problem. In some cases, the difficult person may be so enraged they cannot calm down or listen to reason and you may fear losing control of your anger. In those cases, politely, but firmly, inform the individual they have crossed the line of civility and that you are leaving until such time they can discuss the issue with you in a more appropriate manner.
Remain Calm Under Pressure
Akin to managing your emotions, you must not allow your natural “fight or flight” mechanism to take control of your responses. Breath slowly and deeply to counteract the adrenalin speeding into your system. Pay special attention to your facial expressions, putting on as neutral a face as possible. Also be aware of your body language making certain you are not posturing yourself defensively or aggressively. Lower the volume of your voice and speak in a calm, neutral tone. The less reactive you are to their behavior the more control you exert in the situation.
First, identify the difficult personality type with which you are dealing. Then adjust your communication style in such a way that person will be more likely to hear what you are actually saying. To the ego maniac you frame your conversation so he/she can see the benefit to them. To the passive/aggressive set specific guidelines and expectations. Immediately stop the gossip by telling them you have no interest in being a part of any conversation that can be detrimental to your company or anyone working in it. To the anger addict set boundaries on his/her behavior and let them know the moment they cross those boundaries is when you leave the conversation. Take the lead in the conversation and make it center on the issue at hand. Press for solutions to the issue and immediately stop any conversation that attempts to side track that effort and bring the talk back to the issue at hand. Whether you are expressing expectations, boundaries or objectives, be as precise as possible in order to avoid misinterpretations.
Keep in mind there are many other difficult personality types we could discuss and there are specific ways we can deal with each of those personality types. Also realize that how we deal with a difficult personality is going to be different if that person happens to be our supervisor. This article is intended to be a very surface treatment for what is truly a deep subject. The Mahan 9 Group has presentations which delve into this issue at much greater depth. To schedule a presentation for your business, contact Chris Mahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.