Troublesome people and how to handle them

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You know the type – the person who’s never content with anything, and if something goes amiss, they fret over it incessantly and seem unwilling to let it go. Or perhaps you struggle with the individual who, no matter what you present to them, they’ll always readjust it.

In work situations especially, we’re often stuck with people we’d otherwise seriously consider throwing overboard if the chance arose! These individuals can certainly make work life stressful and, given that many studies consistently show we see work colleagues as the most significant element in our workplaces, this is a considerable issue.

Since everybody has their own ‘map of the world’ – seeing things from different perspectives – to create harmony, it’s important to see inside other’s ‘maps’ and launch ‘offensives’ from the ‘inside out’.

Below are some tips for achieving just that:

The Meandering One:

This type of person can be difficult to work with, as they often present contradictory behaviour. They will ‘zig-zag’ from one idea to another and may not even remember what was originally said!

To foil this, have this individual put their suggestions in writing, enabling them to both accept ownership and furnish evidence of previous ideas, thus avoiding confusion later.

The Stroppy One:

This person’s usual state is persistent irritation with a variety of issues. It must exhaust them as they’re never happy and may become annoyed at the slightest thing such as sounds, minor changes, and suggestions.

The trick with this individual is not to absorb their negative state by remarking on or responding to every complaint. Instead, it’s resourceful to remind them of the considerate things you’re doing for them in an effort not to annoy them. Get them to focus on the positive.

The Authoritative One;

Ah, a particular favourite; the person who, no matter which idea or suggestion you present, they invariably feel the need to share their perceived superior observations/recommendations/constructive criticism – all to be ‘helpful’. Whilst they don’t view themselves as negative or difficult, it can be extremely frustrating when your ideas or work are constantly corrected and adjusted.

Of course, all of us have a critic within us. However, most people can filter when to critique someone else’s ideas or actions. This troublesome individual, however, seems to possess no such filter.

A plan of attack is to set ground rules by explaining that, whilst we appreciate their input, they should provide it at the appropriate moment; for instance, when we consider the details of the project, rather than at the initial brainstorming stage.

The Long-Suffering One;

They may be as critical as The Critic but are more problematic as they won’t actually state what they think. Instead, they withhold their views and opinions, and then periodically explode with resentment. We are continually treading on eggshells in anticipation of outbursts.

As a solution, we can ask specific questions of this individual, enabling them to articulate their concerns. For example, “What are your must-haves and what can we cooperate on?” or “If we were to compromise, how would that look for you?”

The Expert on Everything;

This person can inadvertently slow down group discussions and/or dull the conversation by giving too much detail and context around an issue.

An effective approach is to set time limits on the individual speaking – whether it’s directly to us or within a group. Try to predominantly ask closed questions requiring concise, one-word responses and urge them to present their material using concrete facts and numbers. For example, “What are the three key points you would like the team to know?”

The Emotional Wreck;

The person becomes almost hysterical in the face of a challenge. They just can’t cope and may resort to tears, panic or anger. They can therefore become an endless drain on people’s time and energy.

It is imperative to be assertive with this individual and inform them of your requirements from the relationship. In this way, encourage them to transfer the focus from themselves to others.

The Hopper;

This person can frustrate communication as they hop from topic to topic, thus averting attention. They will pursue their own line of discussion and have scant regard for other’s contribution to the subject.

It’s best to tell this individual, at the outset of the conversation, the objectives you wish to pursue (writing them down) and ensuring they focus on each of them. This is critical if you expect them to decide something. It can also be useful to ask questions that demand brief, closed answers so they remain consistently focused.

So, as you can see, you will encounter various types of people, particularly at work. Rather than react to them emotionally haphazardly, however, it is more resourceful to devise strategies, ensuring working relationships are less tedious and more rewarding.

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