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Difficult People

I use to think I had a difficult son. He has a top which professes this fact “100% Perfect, 50% of the time”.  He’ll ignore instructions, deliberately do things we don’t want him to do. When he heads to bed at night he plays for around 1-2 hrs, going into his brothers room to steal dummies, pulls things out of the hotpress, nicks his sisters keyboard or clock. He sings songs at the top of his voice while in bed and we are trying to settle his baby brother in the room next door. When I go in and try to get him to settle…. he hides under the covers and then when I get him out he asks “are you cross yet?”

100% Perfect Of course in this enlightened age we shouldn’t say that he’s difficult, bold or bad but that the behaviours that he exhibits are difficult, bold or bad.

This is part of the first step in improving how we deal with “difficult people”; to change our view point on the challenge we are presented with. Our own reaction, ability to deal with the challenging behaviour can either exasperate or improve the situation. Kids looking for reaction or attention don’t really care wither it is good or bad as long as they are getting your attention.

In fact this tip of changing of our view point is important regardless wither we are having difficulties with a child or with another adult. It is critical for us to try and not take things personally and not to get dragged down (to their level or emotionally in ourselves). By remaining neutral and objective we can diffuse the situation a lot quicker and have a more successful outcome. So we need to acknowledge our own role in the problem behaviour, is our own reaction making the situation better or worse. With my son I would try to remain calm for a while; then I would be shouting at him to settle and get to bed; then it would be removal of toys, locking his toy cupboard, switching off lights at the mains and the removal of treats the following day. Actions which fed his attention and made him feel like he was winning because he was getting so much attention.

I use to have a guy working for me who similarly was an absolute pain in the neck. Unless you stood over him he would slack off, take extra long breaks and drag everyone down with him. When he was assigned certain tasks for the night which he really didn’t like he’d call in sick resulting in the whole factory being shut down when I couldn’t get anyone in to cover his shift. But he was always just inside the line of subordination and always with a good reason unless we were physically there to catch him slacking off we could do little and he knew it and revelled in it.

The second step is to try and look behind the behaviour and to understand what is causing it. In our kids it can be because they are not able to express their feelings in a better way or for others it might be that they just have difficulty winding down, settling or being quiet for sustained periods of time.

Deepak Chopra gives some good advice on how to deal with difficult (Even Impossible) people on http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Deal-with-Difficult-People-Deepak-Chopra . It is well worth reading. He recommends trying to name what specifically is the difficulty; is the person clinging, controlling or competitive? And then he recommends what not to do and what to do.

Person Don’t Do
Clinging Avoid them, and Neutrality hurts their feelings. Show them how to deal with situations on their own and give them responsibility.
Controlling Rely on facts; they don’t care as long as they are right. Turn it into a contest. Act unintimidated, show that you are good enough and stand up for yourself.
Competitive Plead or appeal to their better nature Either let them win or have a reasonable argument, if possible a compromised win.

 

Deepak also talks about other types: Self-important people, chronic complainers and Victims. So read his post to see how to deal with them.

But you can already see from the table both our own children and also some of those people we have difficulty with in work.  Our children could be described as Clinging and needing to learn the skills that they need in order to handle feelings and life’s trials on their own. My son’s behaviour come bed time is also competitive, he wants to win, to get that dummy, to have his play as he doesn’t know how to settle down properly come bed time without it. When he is going upstairs you can see him getting more excited.

So for him we have looked at only this issue of his bed time and his behaviour, coldly, to identify what his triggers are and how we can help create a win-win for both of us. The review lead to the implementation of a number of changes:

  1.        We moved his bedtime, if it’s going to take him a while to settle down then we’ll accept that and get him to bed earlier so we don’t have a tired and cranky child in the  morning.
  2.        We lock all the doors in the hallway bar his own and the toilet until after he’s asleep, if he can’t get into the other rooms then he won’t go in there to mess or find other distractions.
  3.        We re-arranged his bedroom so he can no longer reach his light switch and has limited access to toys.
  4.        Switch off all the lights upstairs, to reduce his visual stimulation.

And it is working, he goes to his room and is a lot quieter, getting to sleep better and there is less messing about. Now he’s not perfect, 100% of the time but by changing our view of what success is, he’s getting there.

In work, I had to have several conversations with that difficult employee to find out the cause of his behaviour. In the end when confronted he eventually conceded that he wanted to go off and study but to get the funding he needed to be made redundant not sacked. He was quite happy to take the rest of the company with him, so in the end we told him to go away and laid him off and we both won.

So when dealing with difficult people, no matter what their size it is important to remember, step back, don’t take it personal and consider the kind of problem you are having with the person. Then tackle them in the right way to achieve what you need, if needs be to escalate and involve others.

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