Helping leaders emerge

Blog - February 2019

How to Deal with Difficult People!

Many of my clients sign up for coaching in order to develop their executive presence – that is the ability to show up confident, calm, and present – especially when dealing with difficult individuals. A recent client shared that one of his peers was making rude comments about my client in front of others. As a result, my client felt himself getting triggered when he came into contact with his peer. My client was concerned because he had to work regularly with this peer and intuitively understood that his colleague’s behavior was not going to change.

As you (unfortunately!) know, difficult colleagues – as well as people in our personal lives – come in many shapes, sizes and flavors, including being overly critical, bossy, unaware of how their behavior impacts others, and even – on the more extreme side – self-centered, mean–spirited, and manipulative.

Since difficult people are not always interested in or capable of insight, most likely they are not going to change. Therefore, it’s really up to you to change how you show up, so that you can remain confident and grounded and protect yourself from their negative energy.

While I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach for dealing with difficult individuals, you can experiment with different self-management strategies to better manage difficult individuals and situations and build your inner resources.

I would say the overall goal when dealing with difficult individuals is to learn how to expand your window of tolerance for dealing with discomfort (an important life skill!), train in the skill of compassion – toward yourself and others, and ultimately feel happier and more resilient.

Here are a few different self-management strategies clients have successfully used when engaging with difficult individuals – hope you find them useful!

Set a Goal for the Interaction. Your objective is to remain present, calm and grounded and find some peace and ease during a difficult moment. For example, when I start to feel triggered, I will get grounded in my body, feel my feet on the floor, and start to focus on my breath. See Get Present and Grounded below for more information on how to use your body and breath to remain present, calm, and grounded.

Prepare. Take time and space to prepare for a difficult interaction. It’s helpful to prepare by writing out your goal and process, meditating, and/or taking a walk. Click here  to download a worksheet clients often find useful when preparing for a difficult situation.

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A Bride Married To Amazement

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.


When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

                      – Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019)