"You know, this would be a great business if it weren't for having to deal with people all the time…" Michael Beck leads with this quote in his fun piece on Dealing with Difficult People from Darwin, the online magazine from CxO Media. Similarly, my wife used to joke that colleges really need to provide a "dealing with stupid people" course. But then, that is what one learns by living with college roommates and working on class assignments together.
The sentiment in the quote is familiar to anyone who gets frustrated by people - which means everyone. But then without people there wouldn't be much business to do. Beck lists three common solutions, then a not-so-common one. He also provides some insight into how "difficult" people affect those around them.
- Try to change ourselves
- Try to change the other person
- Decide to put up with them
- Work to understand their motivation
Beck's suggestion to understand their motivation is one of the techniques I use to get my head around why I get annoyed by someone's behavior. Are they under stress? Are they in a hurry? What makes them happy? Have I talked with them about something they like enjoy discussing? (Hey, I am beginning to sounds like a Dale Carnegie instructor.)
My take on this is some form of "If I am disturbed, then there is something internal disturbing me." I know from long experience that the same circumstances do not always elicit the same emotional responses from me. This applies to people just as well. If I am in a mood, everyone will appear difficult. And when I am prepared, almost nothing can phase me. So why do I think I need to deal with a difficult person - it is my health and sanity that I need to cover, and that is where my responsibility lies. Of course, there are always people who are professionally annoying, such as those described by Amy Gahran's enjoyable series on Handling Porcupines, Trolls, and Other Online Vermin. But even then, I can choose my response.