How To Handle Difficult People

Imagine you are minding your own business, and suddenly you are confronted with a person who has already lost his/her temper. They have wound themselves up and they take you by surprise. Or the other person suddenly "loses it" during a meeting and gets angry. How should you handle it? Here is a six step method that can help.   1.    Let them speak for a short while without interruption   2.    Reflect back how they feel   3.    Question down   4.    Answer their point   5.    Confirm understanding   6.    Change the subject

Step 1

Step 1 Let them speak for a short while without interruption


Let them blow off some steam.


For many, this will be all you will need to do.


When they have got it "off their chest", they will feel fine again.

No real harm done.


But for others, this will not be enough.

You will have to do more.

Go to step two

Step 2

Step 2 Reflect back how they feel.


Reflect back their feelings to them in words.


"I can see you are upset, John" or

"I can see you are frustrated, John"


You do not have to agree with John, but you should be able to empathize with him.


Empathising with John will allow you to "build a bridge" between you.


It will also allow you take step three...

Step 3

Step 3 Question down


When you think the person has calmed down sufficiently, then start to question him down.


Try to find out the source problem that has caused him to lose control


Ask him to name the ONE thing that is bugging him the most.

"John. What I need to know is: what is the ONE most important thing that is really troubling you?"


Question down until you find THE ONE most important thing.

Then take step four.

Step 4

Step 4 Answer their point


When you have identified the major source of the problem, give your best answer to their problem.


Try to keep calm


Don't lose your temper


Explain why your answer is what it is.


Be clear; unambiguous.

When you think they have understood your answer take step five....

Step 5

Step 5 Confirm understanding


Ensure that the person has understood your answer.

Do not assume they understood what you said.

Check it out.


They do not necessarily have to agree with your answer.


BUT they must understand your answer.


They must understand it both in terms of

1.    what it is

2.    the reasons for it

When you have an understanding, take step six

Step 6

Step 6 change the subject


When you have finished explaining the answer and you have an understanding, close the conversation down!


If you can, leave the room.


If you cannot leave, at least change the subject.


But whatever else you do, do not keep the argument going longer than is necessary.


In conflict situations remember this phrase:  brevity is a virtue


Putting the same point another way, remember this phase:

The more you say, the more likely you will say something wrong. So keep it brief!

Here is the six step method in a form you can memorize. Memorize the following six words: You will be glad you did.  1.    Listen  2.    Reflect  3.    Question  4.    Answer  5.    Confirm  6.    Close


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