Dealing with difficult people

by Elise Stevens | Futureproof Your Career Podcast

What if we chose to get closer to difficult people instead of avoiding them?

We’ve all had a difficult boss, stakeholders we’ve dreaded dealing with or clients we wish we’d never taken on, so we know these relationship problems rarely solve themselves.

Andy Kaufman is an expert on leadership and project management, and he believes the secret to dealing with difficult people is to sit down right beside them and look them in the eye.

In this podcast, Andy explains to Elise Stevens why we should be spending more time with difficult people.

Points raised in this podcast:

  • A difficult person believes their behaviour is completely reasonable – even if it doesn’t appear that way to you.
  • When we cognitively reframe a difficult person as a challenge, we are forced to become curious about what’s driving their behaviour.
  • Understanding the behaviour may make it easier to deal with. Try to find out a little more about the person; perhaps they’re driven by an agenda or dealing with stress.
  • There is almost always more nuance behind a person’s toxic behaviour than we think.
  • Our instinct is to contract from difficult people, but this can exacerbate the problem. When we get close to them, sit beside them, look them in the eye and listen intently, we have a chance at understanding them.
  • Attempt to build a relationship with the difficult person by spending time with them without talking about the point of conflict. Try to find something you agree upon.
  • Not all disagreement is conflict. As Michael Roberto explains in his book Why Great Leaders Don’t Take No For An Answer, cognitive conflict is necessary and desirable in any team.
  • Being open-minded and curious with difficult people means you might learn something that will be helpful later in your career.

About Andy:

Andy Kaufman is a recognised expert on leadership and project management, helping organisations around the world improve their ability to lead and deliver. Andy works with leaders at the United Nations and other global clients to improve their ability to deliver on their initiatives. Before becoming an internationally sought-after speaker, Andy started as a software developer and was promoted into management for all the wrong reasons! He is the author of three books and host of the acclaimed People and Projects Podcast, which provides free PDUs through interviews and insights for his global listeners.

You can connect with Andy on LinkedIn.