Seven types of difficult people; and how to deal with them

Conflict between people arises inevitably and we all have to be prepared to manage difficult relationships at home and in the workplace from time to time. In my previous article on this topic I suggested ways to improve our own responses to conflict when it arises.

When devising strategies for managing difficult relationships it can be helpful to think in terms of stereo types. When reading around the subject I discovered some simple suggestions on how to manage or deal with the typical behavioral traits of seven types of difficult people.

Using the summary below, you could develop specific strategies or try some different techniques to deal with difficult people when you encounter them in your life or workplace.

1. Know-it-alls
Apparently confident, often condescending; their claimed knowledge may be real or fake; and they are often poor listeners.
How to cope with the know-it-alls:
• prepare yourself with the facts;
• state your position and
• invite discussion.

2. Moaners

Complain frequently; feel powerless and vulnerable to change; and/or rarely offer solutions.
How to cope with moaners:
• take them seriously: listen carefully and summarise what’s been said; and then
• ask for solutions, to encourage positive engagement.

3. Procrastinators

Characterised by delay and indecision; may indicate stalling tactics or inarticulateness; and/or sensitivity to external opinion.
How to cope with procrastinators:
• allow them time;
• show confidence in them; and
• work with them towards a solution.

4. Bullies

Often show hostility and anger, blatant or concealed; attempt to assert dominance; and may be physically threatening.
How to cope with bullies:
• be cogent and confident but not aggressive;
• allow time for aggression to dissipate; and
• maintain eye contact.
Take formal action against persistent bullying: seek guidance from your union or HR team, or contact us for advice.

5. Quiet ones

In difficult situations will withdraw communication.
How to cope with quiet ones:
• ask open questions and allow time for answers;
• engage actively and sympathetically; and
• keep communication channels open.

6. Killjoys

Tend to disagree with everything; often feel powerless or disappointed.
How to cope with killjoys:
• accept pessimism while projecting optimism;
• discuss potential problems to pre-empt negative comment; and
• be prepared to take action on your own.

7. Nice people

Keeping everyone happy is their priority; may over commit and fail to deliver.
How to cope with nice people:
• show that you like them;
• engage on a personal level;
• listen carefully; and
• help them to be realistic about the task in hand.

We can all be difficult to deal with at times. Which of these types is typical of you?

© Barbara Capstick

June 2012.