How to Get Along with Difficult People

How to Get Along with Difficult People

How to Get Along with Difficult People

Presented here are two sources to help you with this topic.  The first is a free report from the Program on Negotiation from the Harvard Law School entitled “Dealing with Difficult People”.  I recommend you download this article and read it.  The second is a tip from The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America.   A brief commentary on each follows.

Dealing with Difficult People

“Everyone knows a difficult person.

A person who says "no" when they could say "yes," who stonewalls instead of solving problems, and who inevitably makes you want to throw up your hands and walk away.

But that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

You can learn how to deal with these individuals and we'll show you how to do it with our latest free report: Dealing With Difficult People.

Brought to you by the experts at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School,Dealing With Difficult People covers some key ways to diffuse conflict, build consensus, and negotiate to get what you want.

You'll be surprised that difficult people may not be so difficult after all.

What to do when someone says no

Work with the other party

- Explore your opponent's interests, present a variety of proposals, and be candid about your own concerns

Work around the other party

- Build a coalition that will help you influence the deal blocker Work without the other party

- Pursue relationships and opportunities outside the current deal with the goal of creating an appealing alternative

- Overvaluing your assets and your power

Business deals are built on relationships.

When you're personally invested or believe you have more to gain, you can overvalue your assets and your power.

Understanding the perspective and interests of your counterpart will enable agreements that benefit both parties and maintain strong business relationships. Learn how to prepare for a collaborative negotiation that avoids a power backlash and leads to success. But that's just the beginning.

Read Dealing with Difficult People to learn even more ways to handle conflict and build relationships.

It's free, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In this report, you'll also learn actionable strategies for:

- Dealing with people who won't give you what you want

- Holding your ground in difficult situations

- Negotiating effectively in the face of adversity

Not only that, but you'll dive deep into pivotal principles such as:

- Sandwiching the "no" between two "yeses:" To express your difference of opinion in a more positive light

- Building a golden bridge: To help your opponent view the outcome as a partial victory

- Listening actively: To disarm your opponent by asking open-ended questions

Holding Firm in the Face of Adversity

It can be extremely challenging to stand up to difficult people who may have an arsenal of weapons, including ridicule, bullying, insults, deception, and exaggeration.

So whenever possible, prepare in advance for difficult negotiations.

And one of the best ways to do so is by reading Dealing With Difficult People.

In this free report, you'll learn how to stay calm and poised even in the face of extreme adversity. You'll also learn how to reframe a situation to put a disagreement in a more positive light. By doing so, you can turn a battle of wills into a civil negotiation and even a positive partnership.

Getting to "Yes"

Even in the most challenging situations, it can be done.

A few quick tips:

- Look for ways to help your opponent save face and feel he's getting his way

- Use objective standards of fairness to help create a bridge between your interests

- Make it hard to say "no" by educating your opponent about the situation, consequences, and alternatives

If you're wondering what else can ease your next conflict, download your free copy of Dealing With Difficult People today.

Read this special report...before you go head-to-head with a difficult person. Curated from Negotiation Briefings and written by experts from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law SchoolDealing With Difficult People is available now. Download your copy today for the advice you need to get through to that difficult person in your life. You'll be glad you did!”

Tip from The Servant Manager

On March 2, 2015 I spoke on “Coaching Difficult Clients and Helping Managers with Difficult Employees” to the Association for Talent Development Special Emphasis Group on Coaching in Minneapolis.  These are individuals that coach others on various issues including how to get along with difficult people.  We worked through interactive exercises they could work with clients.  

One of the tips provided and discussed was “How to Deal with Difficult People”.  That tip in part states:

Difficult people come in many shapes and varieties. Some examples are:

  • Always critical
  • Attacking others
  • Attacking you
  • Brown nosing
  • Boss plays favorites
  • Busy buddies
  • Center of attention
  • Chatty Cathy’s (not saying this as a sexist, because guys have issues too)
  • Know it all
  • Lazy
  • Not listening
  • Obnoxious
  • Stinky
  • Too competitive
  • Undermining you

So what do you do? First, ask if you are a contributor to the problem and see if you need to change. Take a look in the mirror. If not you, then you need to take an appropriate action, because if you don’t nothing will change. So what might be appropriate actions?

  • Clearly define the situation
  • Consider various alternatives
  • Consider what might happen if you took action on those alternatives
  • Discuss this with your mentor
  • Pick the best solution

Doing nothing causes no change, so this will continue to negatively impact you. If you can live with that, chalk it up to the source and let it go.

Complaining is counterproductive and wastes time and energy – avoid this trap

Anger never solves anything

Constructive behavior

  • Confront the situation when you are calm, prepared, practiced and ready to address the person
  • Obtain feedback from others
  • Explore why the person is being difficult
  • Try to build a rapport first before addressing the concern
  • When you do determine the time is right (there may never be an exactly right time)
    • Do this in private
    • Be respectful
    • Focus on the concern or problem
    • Listen
    • Empathize
    • Work towards an amenable solution
  • Follow up after a potential solution was found
  • Reinforce good behavior with a positive acknowledgment

If you have tried all of these and you still have the concern, it is time to elevate the issue to management. Coming in with this as background will certainly help your supervisor to work with you to address the concern. To your supervisor, the key is that you tried to do this with the other party first, and you are coming in with the facts and a proposed solution.

If the situation still isn’t resolved

  • Minimize contact
  • Limit the person’s access to you
  • Consider a different position in the organization
  • Consider leaving the organization

Remember focus on the problem, don’t make it personal, don’t blame yourself and don’t blame the difficult person. We are all different, and we see things differently.

My mother gave me good advice early in life. She told me when I thought everyone else was crazy; I should stop and look in the mirror. Maybe they were, but more likely than not, it might just be me. In this context I may be a contributor, and as stated at the beginning I might need to see what I can do to make sure I am not contributing to the situation.


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]