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Interacting Positively with Challenging People

Interacting with challenging people you encounter daily in your work environment is easily solved if you do everything they want you to do. But as hackles rise on the back of your neck, it’s time to look for other answers. You don’t want to be told to change, and they’re exactly the same. Everyone likes acting the way they do. Therefore your solution is to learn ‘some skills’ to make life easier for you.

That person may be someone you work with every day or someone you need help from next week. Therefore learning how to communicate effectively with these people is to your advantage.

Effective communication includes many aspects. Communication consists of verbal content (what is said) verbal tone (soft, loud, etc) and body language (how we stand, facial expressions etc). Whereas once it was thought these aspects of communication were standard for both genders, Alan Pease, the body language expert has come up with new evidence to support his theory about genders differences. He states in the first few seconds it takes to assess a person, forming

  Female Male
% of verbal content 7 – 10% 15 – 20%
% of verbal tone 10 – 23% 30 – 45%
% of body language 70 – 80% 40 – 50%

So men are better at understanding the content, and tone but not as good at reading the body language. Whereas women judge primarily on the body language rather than content and tone. Therefore we surmise somebody is a difficult person, but maybe we’ve picked up on the wrong vibes.

However, there’s also the chance that either party hasn’t received the message. There are three elements involved in communication.

  1. The SENDER
  2. The MESSAGE (what the sender means)

Consider this famous wartime verbal message sent by a front line colonel to a Major at Headquarters:

“Send the reinforcements - we are going to advance!”

How the message was received:

“Send three and four pence - we are doing to dance.”

The message when received by the receiver was completely incorrect. It made no sense and was miss-interpreted. However, more problems with communication occur when:

  • the sender does not express himself clearly e.g. when angry or upset
  • the message is confused e.g. bad telephone or background noise
  • the receiver is not able to take in the message, e.g. they’ve not heard it, they’re not listening, and they’ve already made up their mind about the answer.

Therefore misconstrued messages in relation to the awkward person who didn’t do what you asked, didn’t understand what you were expressing may have valid reasons. Albeit these can be minimized by the following:

Communication is 80% listening and 20% speaking and effective listening is when both parties are concentrating on, hearing what other people say. If you’re unsure whether you’ve been heard correctly, you can reflect back to them with statements like “so what I am hearing you say is...” then, if you have heard it incorrectly or misunderstood, there’s the opportunity for the message to be corrected.

In reverse, you can rephrase your message and ask open-ended – Where, Why, What, Would, How, When questions to ensure they’ve understood you. These questions also give the sender the opportunity to gather more information in the initial stages of a conversation.

At the beginning of the article I mentioned to you doing everything the other party requires of you, that has them as a happy person but probably not you. Therefore to create a win/win situation, you must also be able to clarify your boundaries.

Use of the word “I” gives you the ability to do this in phrases using “I think” or “I feel”. Also, communicating with phrases like: “I can’t do this, but I can help with that” means you’re working towards creating a winning outcome where both parties are happy.

However, sometimes it’s impossible to meet other people’s request and learning to say “NO” is often a huge challenge. In the past you would have agreed but you now have to refuse. Be strong in your commitment if the situation is not working for you because when you do, it’s saying ‘yes’ to you.

Interacting with challenging people is possible, by learning new skills. You work within your boundaries as you try to achieve a compromise, where both parties remain with their esteem and pride in tact. Sometimes that is possible, other times it may not be. Albeit you need to remember you’re responsible for your own state of mind, actions and happiness, so it’s up to you to create it. The winning result you want, is not a win/lose or lose/win situation which you may have experienced in the past….but a win/win.

Janice Davies is a Professional Speaker, Trainer and Author.

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