Difficult people are hard to categorise and pigeon-hole. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to really enjoy making life difficult, being confrontational and creating mayhem all around them. They are frequently mood hoovers, sucking up positivity and making everyone’s working life more difficult, more challenging and more stressful than it needs to be.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. A key factor here is dealing effectively ad efficiently with staff and colleagues who are challenging and who are draining your available time to get the job done.

Try the following top tips and see the results.

Set some limits
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their point of view which then makes them feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative mess.

Be bold; set limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Turn the problem around and ask them to solve it. This will bring about one of two outcomes – they either go very quiet or actually make some constructive contributions. Cut the moaning off at source.

Don’t end up in a ditch
Realise that it is necessary to fight another day – conflict can be very tiring and counter-productive so do not be tempted to dig yourself into the ground and fight for the sake of it. Be really, really tuned into the adrenalin rush and recognise the value in backing out of the argument and revising your approach. Only stand your ground when the time is right.

Keep calm and do not be provoked
The very poor behaviour of difficult people is like quicksand which slowly sucks you into its grip. Respond carefully, coldly and in a measured manner. The more extreme and confrontational their behaviour the easier it is to move away and to create some quality emotional distance from them. Keep your focus on the facts, just the facts and nothing but the facts.

Be aware of your emotional state
Recognise the signs that show that you are beginning to “loose it” – develop your emotional awareness and act accordingly. Walk away, gather your thoughts, avoid the trap that comes with wading into the conflict or debate and come back with a clear plan.

Set your boundaries
Develop control through knowing exactly how far you will go; this will let you rise above the passion and heat of the moment into a more objective frame of mind. If those around you know what these lines look like they will be less inclined to be difficult or confrontational but you need to stick to your guns and not waver.

Look only at solutions
A focus on problems and how bad things are is a defeatist attitude and something that only delivers more problems. Negative emotions and stress only wear you down. If you put all of your energy into actions that improve the situation or which develop yourself your energy and ability to see the bigger picture and make positive decisions improves dramatically. You can put yourself in control by thinking carefully about how you will deal with the person and what you want to get out of the situation – do not get drawn into their emotive and erratic rants and behaviour.

Open your memory and retain information
You can forgive but do not forget. Difficult people will probably always be difficult people so it is very likely that tomorrow/next week/next month they will be back with either the same or a similar rant, spitting blood, venting spleen and being, well, difficult again. Forgive by all means but remember that forgiveness means letting go.

Avoid negative talk
The negativity of other people is like an infectious disease; the thoughts that you have about situations will be influenced by the words and actions of others but the danger here is that this intensifies your own feelings and can get you drawn into a situation in a way that you had not expected. Avoid an own-goal and keep your mind focused on what you think is important, not what they say is important.

Get plenty of sleep
A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to problem people. This will give you a balanced perspective that you can use to deal effectively with them.

Gain support from your personal network
Do not try to do it all yourself; this may be a heroic approach but ultimately it is doomed to failure. Get the perspective of those you trust to validate your approach; remember that you might think your approach is water-tight but the views of your colleagues might prove it has serious weaknesses which then create more problems in the longer term. A fresh pair of trusted eyes is an invaluable resource!

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