Last month it was my pleasure to address approximately 20 thought leaders from all levels of management on the topic of “Enhancing Effectiveness”. This was a fun four hour interactive session. One of the participated even shared “The best management training I ever had.” That made my day.

A common concern identified by participants from the 18 evaluations I received indicated a need to address “Working with Difficult People.” I have addressed this before on two other blogs. This blog addresses How to Get Along with Difficult People. This blog addresses Negotiating with Others When They Don’t Play Fair. Katie Shock from the Program on Negotiations from the Harvard Law School offers this article on When Dealing with Difficult People Try a Complementary Approach. She suggests “Contrary to the hard-bargaining style Donald Trump recommends, new research supports the benefits of adapting to the other party’s negotiating style.”

That has been my experience as well. She suggests upon a review of a negotiation study:

“The lesson of the study isn’t that it always pays to adopt a submissive, deferential negotiating style. Rather, the results suggest that we can all benefit from assessing the negotiating style of our counterpart and seeking a communication style that complements and harmonizes with theirs. This advice may be useful in a variety of contexts, from international diplomacy to dealing with difficult coworkers.”

I would like to offer that by not letting yourself become caught up by responding in kind:

  1. Pause
  2. Realize that you may be escalating as a response
  3. Focus on not letting your negative emotions take over
  4. Focus on remaining calm
  5. Take several deep breaths
  6. Think clearly about you are about to say

Focus on the problem and at hand and from Peaceful Resolutions and the attached pocket guide:

Ten Steps for an Interest-Based Resolution

  1. Define the problem (issues) and take on one issue at a time
  2. Listen to understand the emotion and facts associated with the issue
  3. Identify and clarify interests
  4. Generate options
  5. Determine the impacts of options
  6. Evaluate the impacts of options
  7. Select a solution
  8. Consider implementing the solution or go back to an appropriate step
  9. Before implementing the solution consider testing the solution
  10. Consider BATNA and WATNA if no solution can be found

Understand the Zone of Possible Agreement, ZOPA, and work with the other party to collaborate on reaching it.

Perhaps the ideas presented here may help you or someone else.  Feel free to share this with others.

Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA is an expert in conflict resolution dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition, and his NEWEST BOOK  now also available as an eBook, Peaceful Resolutions: A 60-step illustrated guide to conflict resolution are available at this link.  Free resources are available online at Check out the blog.  Contact Mike directly at or call (651) 633-5311. 

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]