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Archive for Difficult People – Page 2

     Are you a difficult person? If you’re honest with yourself, you can be difficult from time to time, right? The question is how do you deal with the chronically difficult people — you know, those who manage to get under your skin every time? Whether you’re managing a difficult person at work with a sense of entitlement, or conversing with a know-it-all customer,  you can counteract their bitter aftertaste. It just takes practice – and patience. I know because I hear about these people all the time when I speak on “7 Magic Wands for Making Difficult People Disappear.”

     The secret to bouncing back higher from what life throws at you – like dealing with difficult people – is discovering how to live, work, and (in some cases) love difficult people. Because in reality there will always be difficult people.

      Have you ever noticed that an early-morning negative interaction with somebody you’d call a “difficult person” can set the tone for the entire day? Have you struggled to shake off a negative aftertaste and told yourself, “It’s not that big of a deal, just move on” but the feeling lingers? What can you do?

     Difficult conversations mar your day because you become so hot and bothered you keep processing the emotions evoked by the interaction. To blunt the impact, save this processing for later.

     How do you do that? By immediately stepping into a happy, funny, or positive environment. The next time you have lunch, or a short break, spend a few minutes reading the comics, having coffee with a co-worker, or calling your close friend to make plans for the weekend. I do realize you’re probably doing the work of five people and probably don’t even know what a “break” is anymore! Believe me, I do understand. Yet, in the midst of a more fun and positive setting, you’ll gain a new perspective for processing your negative emotions! Additionally, you can engage in an activity that distracts you so much (one that uses many brain cells) that pretty soon you won’t even be thinking about that difficult person! You’ll be so caught up in what you’re doing, you won’t have time to think about that individual as much.

   When dealing with difficult people in the future, you’ll now have “practice” for learning to process your emotions later – if at all. Next thing you know, you’ll have counteracted the difficult person’s aftertaste, and you’ll be giving advice to others on dealing with difficult people! Nothing helps you feel better than knowing you’ve helped someone else. Good luck to you!

Dealing with Difficult People…

Friday, February 26th, 2010
What We Can Learn from Dogs!
By Colleen Kettenhofen

“It’s not about being better than others. It’s about becoming better with ourselves.”
Colleen Kettenhofen

     As you know, your rockiest relationships can serve as your greatest teachers. Mine certainly have. Sometimes we learn how we never want to be from observing other people.

     Many of the proven principles in my dealing with difficult people programs have come from personal experience. I’ve learned to make lemons from some pretty sour people. Fortunately, you discover through trial and error how to deal with these difficult people. And if you’re like me, you’ve been lucky. You haven’t had to deal with too many difficult people. And my background is in sales. There’s a profession where sometimes you’re dealing with difficult people!

     What gave me a new leash on life was first looking at what might be my part. Then recognizing what aspect is about them. Chronically difficult people are often unhappy people. Misery loves company. Don’t accept the invitation. Because if we’re still analyzing and dissecting everything they’ve said a week later, they control us. Here’s a great mantra for you to silently say to yourself the next time you’re dealing with difficult people: “THIS is a test. This is ONLY a test. This will NOT be important in 10 yrs!” Chances are it won’t be important even 10 weeks from now.

     Understand where this difficult person in your life is coming from. In dealing with difficult people, know it’s often a dark place of deep insecurity. They make themselves feel better by belittling you. Don’t fall prey to their disparaging remarks. Pretend you’re a duck. Let their comments fall off your back like water and roll into the gutter where they belong. Say to yourself, “I’m am a duck. I am a duck. Your stuff rolls off my back like water and into the gutter where it belongs.”

     Don’t communicate too much to “stand your ground.” You’ll only fan the flames of contentiousness. Don’t add fuel to an already explosive fire. Detach and move away from the fire. Otherwise, it’s YOU who gets burned.

     You’ve heard people say that you can discover a lot from dogs. My dog, Joy, is a bright shining light in a sometimes dark world. For example, it’s amazing to see the joy (pardon the pun) on people’s faces when they see her wet nose and wagging tail. She lives up to her name.

     My mom, Janet, used to say “We can learn how to treat people from dogs.” She would exclaim, “They’re happy to see you. They show appreciation, kindness and love to almost everyone they meet.” My mother was this way. (Kind of get a lump in my throat hearing her voice and feeling her presence!) I want to emulate Janet. And I want to be like Joy. Observing Joy causes me to reflect and ask the question, “How much light do I want to have bring into this world?” Ask yourself the same question. How can you bring hope, healing, and happiness to others? Just like dogs.

     The challenge in dealing with difficult people is this: Not only do they lack bringing light, difficult people are experts at snuffing out your candle flame. They know all the right buttons to press if you’re not wearing your bulletproof vest. They steal your joy and hijack your spirit. Difficult people suck the life out of you…which is why they’re called Emotional Vampires. Don’t let them drive you batty!

Good luck to you!

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Colleen has two NEW books being published in June 2010.

The “Senility” Prayer

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

This is to add some fun and humor to your day. As opposed to the well-known Serenity Prayer, this is called the “Senility” Prayer. Here it is:

Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,

the good fortune to run into the ones I do,

and the eyesight to tell the difference.

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As a leader, manager or supervisor, how do you attract and keep the most talented employees? In this struggling economy, hiring and retaining the best most productive employees is more important than ever.

In Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s book, “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,” they’ve discovered there are 12 questions that measure the strength of a workplace. This is research by the Gallup organization based on in-depth interviews of over 80,000 managers/supervisors in over 400 organizations. The largest study of its kind undertaken. These 12 questions won’t tell you everything about the strength of your workplace, but they’ll provide insight into some of the most important information. They measure the main elements necessary to attract and retain the most talented, productive employees. Here they are:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do I have a best friend at work?

  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

In conducting Leadership and Managing People seminars worldwide, I often quote this study and the above questions to my audiences. I ask them if their employees could answer positively, or “Strongly Agree” to all twelve questions. It’s important to know that on a scale of 1 to 5, “Strongly Agree” is 5. And if your employees can answer “Strongly Agree,” which is more extreme, it distinguishes the most productive companies and their departments from all the rest.

Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, seminars and breakout sessions by calling (623)340-7690.

Sign up for Colleen’s free e-newsletter on leadership, life balance, dealing with difficult people, managing people, presentation skills and more:

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3 Secrets for Dealing with Difficult People!

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

“The person who constantly angers you or frustrates you…controls you.”

Colleen Kettenhofen

Do you know any difficult people? Have you ever worked or lived with a difficult person? Are you a difficult person?! It’s amazing how many participants come up to me at the end of one of my programs and confide, ‘Colleen, I think sometimes I’m a difficult person and just realized it today!’ We can all be difficult at times. But what do you do with the person who is chronically difficult?

A key to getting through the upcoming holidays is learning to live with difficult people. Because there will always be difficult people. Here are three points to remember:

1)    All behavior has a positive intention.
2)    Low self-esteem is often the culprit.
3)    You won’t always please everyone.

All behavior has a positive intention. Take for example the gossip. When someone is always gossiping about everyone else, who are they trying to make look better? Themselves. That’s their positive intention. They frequently have low self-esteem. They don’t realize that when they’re gossiping about others, that people are thinking, “I wonder what they say about me when I’m not around?!”

Lastly, you can’t please everyone. Sometimes for whatever reason, someone won’t like you. Be careful with your words. I often have my participants take the following pledge. It adds humor but gets the point across: “On my honor, I promise, when dealing with a difficult person, that I will bite my tongue and count to ten, because if I don’t, I may say something that I will live to regret!”

Colleen Kettenhofen is a dynamic speaker and author who has appeared on television talk shows as well as conducted over 1,000 programs worldwide for top corporations and associations since 1995.

Colleen Kettenhofen is available for seminars, keynotes and breakout sessions by calling (623)340-7690.

Sign up for Colleen’s free e-newsletter on leadership, life balance, dealing with difficult people, managing people, presentation skills and more:

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“Successful people form the habit of doing what failures don’t like to do. They like the results they get by doing what they don’t necessarily enjoy.” –Earl Nightengale

Do you know the number one job of every manager and supervisor? To make sure their employees are doing the jobs they were hired to do. And in managing people this can be challenging because it’s easy to think, “Well, if I want it done right, I might as well do it myself.” Or, “In the time it’s going to take me to train someone, I might as well do it myself!”

Don’t do everything for them. Otherwise, you’re training them to wash their hands of important assignments. Taking work away from the underperformer becomes an unintentional positive consequence for poor performance. And I guarantee, your employees will notice! It will have a huge negative impact on your team’s morale. As a speaker on leadership and managing people, I hear about it all the time.

I realize sometimes you have tight deadlines, and either you have to do the work yourself, or delegate it to a star performer. But don’t keep taking the work away from the underperformer. It becomes a habit. I even hear of superstars who have quit in disgust because of what someone’s been allowed to get away with. It’s important for employees to know that sometimes we have to do things we’d rather not.

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As a motivational business speaker and author, Colleen Kettenhofen is available for seminars, keynotes, training, and breakout sessions by calling (623)340-7690 locally in Phoenix, Arizona. Or, toll free (800)323-0683.

Dealing with Difficult People 101

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

“The disease of me often results in the defeat of us.”
Pat Riley of NBA fame

All of us know difficult people. Whether we live with difficult people, work with difficult people, have them as bosses, or all of the above. And, at times we can be difficult people. Every time I conduct a workshop on dealing with difficult people, inevitably someone will come up to me afterward saying, “Colleen, after today I’ve realized I’m sometimes a difficult person!” At least these people are aware of it and are proactively working on themselves. But what about chronically difficult people? The difficult people you can’t change? Here are 4 quick tips for dealing with difficult people:

  • First, learn and understand their behavior patterns. What makes these people tick and what ticks them off? Do they go around with a chip on their shoulder harboring insecurities? Do they have the “victim mentality?” Are they an exploder, gossip or bully? Or, are they difficult in many ways because they’ve simply been allowed to get away with it for so long? Are they like this with everyone or just with you?
  • Don’t argue with an overly aggressive person because these people often thrive on chaos. They have a desire for dissention. If you work with someone like this or they’re your boss, it’s best to stay calm and objective. Only talk with them about business, and as I like to say, “News, weather, and sports.” Keep it on the surface. Don’t get too involved with them because inevitably they’ll drag you down. Do the same thing with negativists and gossips.
  • Don’t take their behavior personally. It’s not necessarily about you. Especially if they have a pattern of behaving a certain way with almost everyone. If this difficult person is a co-worker, it’s really up to their manager to approach them about it. I know of a manager who finally had to say to his difficult employee, “You know, the other employees have a right to come to work…and enjoy it.”
  • Keep a journal in your car. When you’re afraid you might say something you’d regret, go out to your car and write everything you’d like to say but never could. It’s very cathartic and physically helps to get all that stuff out of your system. When you are home, tear it up or burn it. Throw it away. Because the person who constantly angers you or frustrates you…controls you.

For more details and specific examples on dealing with difficult people, visit and scroll down to the category titled Dealing with Difficult People. Watch Colleen Kettenhofen’s instant video clip on Dealing with Difficult People at

Most managers and supervisors in my management training programs were promoted to leadership positions based on their “hard skills,” or technical skills. In other words, they were promoted because they were doing a good job. But that doesn’t mean they’ve had training in managing conflict and dealing with people. As a matter of fact, most of them never had management skills training until they’ve been managers and supervisors for three years.
In conducting workshops on effective leadership and managing people, the biggest challenge many managers tell me they face nowadays is how to manage a difficult employee. You can’t control them, but you can control their environment. Here are 3 quick tips for managing difficult people:

  1. Make sure you document because as far as the courts are concerned, if it’s not written down it’s as if it didn’t happen. Stick to the facts. Avoid any language that would be perceived as too subjective. For example, you could document, “John Doe arrived late for the second day in a row at 8:20 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. He also took a two hour lunch from noon until 2:00 p.m. today.” You wouldn’t want to document, “It’s as if John is expecting everyone else to do his work.” You may think it, but you have to stick to the facts as you know them!

  2. Also, avoid using the word “attitude” when managing difficult people. “Attitude” is too subjective and not specific enough. Better to use specific examples of exactly what behavior or quality of work the employee needs to improve. Even though most states nowadays are “Right to Work” and “At Will,” you must warn the employee of where they need to improve. You wouldn’t want them to say they couldn’t change because they “weren’t warned” or “didn’t know.”

  3. Provide specific examples of your expectations for the difficult employee. Discuss this in a performance meeting with them as well as putting it in writing for accountability. When managing difficult people, you must make their goals and objectives clear. Including any behaviors they need to improve. For example, if they’re doing clerical work, a specific example would be that they are to, “Correct and proofread all reports for the quality control department within two days of receiving them.”

For more detailed information and specific examples on managing difficult people, please click on the article titled, “10 Effective Tips for Managing Difficult People,” at