Have you ever had a conversation with someone and immediately dismissed that person as a jerk? Have you ever gotten annoyed at someone who didn’t call you back and, under your breath, concluded, “This person is a butthead!”
You’re likely to call people jerks or buttheads (if only in your mind) for one of two reasons: 1) because of a personality trait that person possesses that clashes with your own, or 2) because that person simply didn’t do what you wanted in that moment. Dealing with difficult people is often the result of a personality clash.
Let’s look at an example of the first. A friend of mine has difficulty with a co-worker whom she describes as “anal retentive” and calls a perfectionist. Not surprising, my friend is the complete opposite. She also has a hard time understanding this colleague because she says she’s too blunt with others. Their ways of handling situations differ completely. And sometimes their personalities clash.
Adding to that, they were raised differently when it came to resolving conflict. While the “blunt” person learned to be direct, my friend was raised with the belief that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In this case as in many, different people equal difficult people.
If you possess personality traits that clash with someone else’s, try to resolve issues in person, or, next best thing, over the phone. Nowadays, people in the workplace are challenged by important messages getting misconstrued via email. You know how it goes. You send someone a neutral email and its meaning is taken the wrong way. Why? One reason is because you can’t “read” a person’s body language in email. And there’s no “tone of voice” unless you carefully craft one.
Carol Burnett said it best. “Words, once they’re printed, tend to take on a life of their own.”
Yes, it’s more confrontational to talk with someone in person, but in the long run, you’ll find it more constructive.
Here’s an example of the second. My friend got asked out by a guy she really liked. He was regarded as an easy-going gentleman to those of us who knew him well, but he never asked her out a second time. She instantly dismissed him as a jerk. However, once she realized he was “difficult” because he didn’t do what she wanted him to do, she got over it!
Sometimes difficult people aren’t really difficult. They’re simply different.