During a recent trip to the library, the title of this book caught my eye. This is an issue that almost everyone needs to know about as most of us will need this on regular basis (also, I have long suspected that I may be one of those difficult people…). The purpose of this book is to equip readers with the skills to handle difficult people in their day to day life and particularly, in the course of work scenarios. The difficult people may be customers/clients, staff/employees, colleagues or even your boss. The writer aims to show practical ways to manage aggression and conflict successfully and to motivate under-performing staff.
This self-professed dip-in and dip-out read is designed to help you “enjoy” (?!) difficult people. The book starts with a cursory overview of human relations before setting out the seven “classically difficult types”, these are: Aggressive, complainer, silent, agreeable (but not in a genuine way), negativist, firewaller and indecisive. Chapter titles like “Dealing with bosses who drive you barmy” or “staff to strangle” did not inspire much confidence, however, upon reading, I discovered that the titled are aptly named and the book is obviously written from person and professional experience. It was refreshing to read sentiments that are considered to be politically incorrect but do, in my experience anyway, reflect some of the daily realities of the workplace.
The grounding premise of this book is that there is no such thing as difficult people, merely people whom we need to learn how to handle.
Another key point to take away from the book is not to take the behaviour of the difficult person personally. It is absolutely not about you, they are being selfish and inwardly focused (which are the characteristics of budding and successful entrepreneurs).
The writer does remind us, in dealing with people we perceive to be difficult, to check our own behaviour – are we being difficult? How we treat others is largely a product of how we feel about ourselves. This is also true of the other person so are we perhaps contributing to the way the difficulty person is feeling about themselves in this particular encounter?
On a positive note, difficult people, Lilley points out that difficult people are very predictable in their behaviours (albeit not in their potential fiery responses). They use emotion to argue, the most effective way to counteract that is to use brain power and logical reasoning – never respond with emotion as this adds fuel to the fire! Specifically, avoid rows as difficult people love that. Instead, try to settle disputes by seeking a neutral authority i.e. rule book or legislation.
If someone is an egomaniac, tell them how good they are (it always worked on me!). Remember, you won’t change a difficult person from being difficult. The best you can do is manage your reaction to it, direct the encounter as you need it to happen.