The Top 10 Tips for Working with Difficult People
Dealing with difficult people is …well, difficult for most of us. Hostile and aggressive people put us on the defensive, cause us anxiety, frustrate our coping skills, and take us out of our comfort zones. Here are 10 tips for diffusing aggressive behavior and getting your needs met.

1. Set strong boundaries.  Let the aggressor know that there are certain types of behaviors and actions that are unacceptable to you. For example, let them know that you will not accept/allow profanity in your conversations.

2. Defer discussions.  When a situation is escalating and both parties are upset with each other is not a good time to reach resolution of a conflict or difference of opinion. Agree to talk at a later time when the emotional charge has dissipated.

3. Confront the aggressive behavior.  Allowing someone to consistently abuse you either verbally or physically is to become an enabler. Confronting lets the person know that you are aware of the behavior and that it is “not ok” with you. Communicate your boundaries.

4. When confronting the unacceptable behavior, be charge-neutral.  This may require that you defer to a later time so both of you can cool off and speak rationally in mutual respect.

5. Communicate your observations and feelings in a nonthreatening way.  Stating “I feel that…” is better than “when you…” because it does not put the aggressor on the defensive. When people are in defensive mode, they stop listening.

6. Practice the “broken record” technique.  Repeat your comments over and over regardless of what the other person is throwing at you that may place you on the defensive. Continue this process until you are acknowledged and you can move forward in the conversation toward resolution.

7. Watch your verbal tone, speed and pitch, body language, and posture.  Maintain eye contact.  Talking too fast gives away your nervousness in confronting the situation. High pitch and tone comes across as hysteria and emotional, not rational. Eye contact lets the person know that you are expecting resolution.

8. Ignore counter-attacks.  This goes along with the broken record technique. Avoid responding to the attacks, focus on your message.

9. Avoid “feeding into” the accusations.  You don’t need to respond or explain your position, you only need to state it as fact. You want to state your boundaries without having to defend or explain them.

10. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict.  Acknowledge your wrongdoing (if appropriate) without excusing or taking blame for the other person’s actions/behavior.  

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