“Is it me??”
The first thing to ask yourself, when faced with any difficult person, is “Is it me?”. It might be a bit of both you AND them – it might be mostly THEM and it’s just that you aren’t very good at handling them, or it might be mostly YOU – and you can’t see it! I think most difficult people probably aren’t aware that they are difficult, so it’s always worth bearing in mind that YOU could be one of them, perhaps more than you think!
So how can you find out if it’s you? What difficult habits or behaviour patterns might you be guilty of? Well I think one way to find out is to ask other people, just subtly, maybe ask them what you could do differently to be EVEN easier to work with, and then listen very carefully to the answer! If they say you could MAYBE sometimes take SLIGHTLY longer to listen to them, then it means that you are probably a TERRIBLE listener! – Ask the question about how you could be easier to work with, and see what nuggets you can sniff out from the answer. This could have a huge effect on how successful you are in life, so it’s important to do it and to do it well.
Another clue that it might be you is if you have the same problem with more than one person. I started work in a helicopter factorymany years ago now, and I can still remember a guy called Andy who started on the same day as I did. We both came in as managers, and both of us didn’t even have a desk ready for us when we got there – the place was a shambles as I came to find out over the years that I worked there.
I could see it was futile, but Andy got really annoyed and had a big go at the estates department about his lack of desk. He then had a go at the IT department about his ancient and slow computer, and a big go at HR about his lack of a proper contract. They were hopeless, but the way he handled them wasn’t much better. I remember him saying “Everyone at this place is SO obstructive!” and of course he should have seen that the fact that it was EVERYONE was a sign that maybe it was HIM!
He never got anything done and he left after a short while, oblivious to the fact that he had failed in the job, really, because he was unable to adapt to the culture there – he just wrote the company off as useless, which in a way it was, but that’s the world isn’t it? The game is to get what you want, or the best you can, from any situation however difficult the people may appear.
In a way it’s great to realize that it’s you not them, because it’s much easier to change yourself than other people! All you have to do is work out how to work more effectively with the apparently difficult person. And of course as I mentioned, it might be a bit of each. Maybe you can change YOUR approach a bit, and also get THEM to change a bit, so you can meet in the middle.
For example if you like to go fast and someone annoys you because they are SO SLOW, maybe YOU can slow down a bit but also get them to give you a shorter summary and less detail?
Or maybe if someone is bad at explaining things – you just don’t understand what they are on about most of the time – maybe you can get them to give a more structured account, certainly, but also change yourself a little and become a better listener. And becoming better with them could make you better with everyone else you deal with as well.
Maybe after this you can ask one or two good friends, perhaps some at work and some outside work, how you could be “even MORE easy to work with”?
And also think of some difficult situations and think about how YOU could change, or at least share the change with the other person so you can meet in the middle?