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Archive for seminars on dealing with difficult people

 “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echos are truly endless.” ~ Mother Teresa

     When dealing with difficult people, the word “kind” may not be the first thing that comes to your mind.Still, the above quote by Mother Teresa is a terrific one to remember so that we don’t become the difficult people. We know to treat others with respect – even those who are hurtful toward us, but we don’t always do with what we know. It’s starts with remembering – and practicing – the basics. What are the basics? Treat the difficult person with at least  some reverence, and don’t take what they say personally. How do you do that? Please read on…

     Let me first say that in presenting keynotes and seminars on dealing with difficult people, the question I’m most often asked is, “How do you not take it personally?”

     Accept that what others do to you is not always personal. Seek first to understand them and what they might be going through. For example, you’d heard people say, “Walk in someone else’s shoes.” Here’s why that advice works: It get you out of your own agenda of believing a hurtful interaction was directed at you.

     Know that most difficult interactions don’t happen because someone woke up one day and decided, “I know what I’ll do! I’ll purposely be mean to Jane Doe today.” Most people just don’t think that way – even difficult people.

Dealing with Difficult People, and Collateral Damage

     Instead, realize that the number one source of difficult interactions is what I call “collateral damage.” People do what they do for their own reasons, and it’s easy to get caught in the crosshairs of their actions. In my role as a corporate speaker with companies and associations all over the world, I frequently witness this happening in the workplace. And especially if you’re a salesperson, your first rule is to not take rejection of your product, service, or message as a rejection of you.

     So take a snapshot of other people’s lives at the time, think about the pressures they’re under, and then accept that what they did to you wasn’t about you. Don’t take it personally. It’s advice that’s trite but true.

     As bestselling author Stephen R. Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Adopting that attitude lets you realize that whatever others did to make something difficult for you, they didn’t do it to you. They just did it.


A frequent media guest, Colleen Kettenhofen is the author of two books, Secrets Your Boss Isn’t Telling You, and the upcoming Adopting Joy. Colleen is author of the 10-CD audio learning system, How to Turn Around Any Situation or Person. Her areas of expertise are leadership, dealing with difficult people, managing change, and improving presentation skills. For free articles, or to sign up for Colleen’s newsletter, visit Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions and seminars by calling toll free (800)323-0683. Or, locally in Phoenix (623)340-7690.



In conducting thousands of seminars on dealing with difficult people, managing difficult people, and leadership for corporations all over the world, the one type of worker I hear about most is the negativist. Now, we can all be difficult from time to time. But the people I’m talking about are the chronically negative difficult people that really get under everybody’s skin.

This is the problem-child whiner who complains, has no solutions, and says, “I don’t get paid enough to worry about that!” Or says sarcastically, “It’s not my job.”

While these people can be challenging to work with, they can be harder to manage. That’s because many managers and supervisors get promoted to management positions based on their hard skills or technical skills. Yet, the very skills that got them promoted aren’t the ones they’ll often use in managing people. Often, bosses say to me, “I’m tired of being everybody’s babysitter or referee.” Or they’ll say, “I feel like I’m running an adult day care!” That’s where I come in – to coach them and train them in what to say – and what not to say –  in dealing with difficult people.  Bosses have to be very careful nowadays because we live in such a litigious society.

And as someone said on a radio show the other day, “It goes both ways. Bosses have to be outstanding role models if they want outstanding employees.” Well said!

So, what if you’re dealing with difficult people – and their negativity at work – but you’re not the manager?  You may not have direct authority over these people, but there are things you can do. One thing you can do is offer the difficult person a solution. Chronic complainers don’t want solutions. Eventually they’ll move on to someone else.

Another method in dealing with difficult people is to continue doing your work. Look up occasionally. Nod occasionally. Most likely, they’ll move on to someone else because they’re looking for an audience. They want someone who will buy in to their negativity. Or, you can be more direct. Tactfully say, “I know this is something you want to discuss, but I have a lot of work and I want to make sure I get it done.”

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to start complaining. Otherwise, the two of you will be feeding off of each other. The next time they want to complain they’ll come to you first!

Document your interactions with these difficult people at work. Eventually, if you can’t resolve it on your own, your manager will have to step in and take action.

The good news? It demonstrates to your boss that you’re proactive. It shows you’re a problem solver in dealing with difficult people. You attempted to tackle this difficult person on your own first, without being a tattletale.  Your boss will appreciate you for making the effort. Unfortunately, now it’s up to them to become the babysitter.