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5 Ways to Work Better With Difficult People

Wherever you work, you’re likely to come across people who you find challenging to work with.

This may distract you from your work, and potentially bring you stress when you’re not at work too.

Here are 5 techniques you can use to turn the situation around:

1. Recognise that difficult people often find everyone else difficult.

Ask yourself: What might this person find frustrating about the way I interact with them?

2. Ask “when?”

Instead of labeling someone as difficult, ask yourself: in which specific situations is this person challenging to work with?

Next, put yourself in their shoes. What could this person be concerned about during these situations? For example, could it be pressing deadlines, pleasing their boss/fear of displeasing their boss, a sense of perfectionism, or needing reassurance that you will deliver for them?

3. Listen and observe

When you become aware of your colleague’s preferred communication style, you can alter your communication to suit that person’s preferences and have more positive interactions.

For example, if you notice that a colleague prefers to communicate on Slack rather than by Zoom meetings, try to accommodate their preference by messaging them and having a quick ‘Huddle’ instead.

4.Find common ground

Listen to what is important to them, and look to see where your values align.

For example, when you find someone values delivering ahead of tight deadlines, share your commitment to meeting their deadlines and suggest finding ways to meet them together.

5. Set clear boundaries

Communicate clear boundaries politely but firmly, when appropriate. For instance, if you are frequently interrupted while working, you could say, "This conversation is important to me, but I am currently focusing on completing [X]. Can we discuss this at [later time]?"

6. Grab a coffee

Getting to know your colleague better can help you see a different side to that person, gain a better understanding of them, and help you steer away from the all-or-nothing view that someone is always a difficult person.

What would you add?

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