As much as we wish it were, the workplace is not a spa. It’s not always calming, relaxing, or peaceful—sometimes it can be downright stressful! We work with a wide variety of people at work, and there will always be someone who likes to press your buttons, stir up drama, or engage in conflict.
Since we can’t pick and choose our colleagues, it’s important to develop skills and tools to deal with difficult people in the workplace.
10 Strategies to Deal with Difficult People at Work
It all starts with the ability to know what’s happening with you. When someone is annoying or frustrating you, it’s important to step back and explore why this is happening and why we’re responding in a certain way. When you can self-reflect, you can make better choices.
Consider the other person’s intentions:
It’s good to be curious about the other person—where are they coming from? Why are they acting this way? Try to see things through their perspective and walk a mile in their shoes!
It’s not always easy, but it’s an important skill to learn. Breathing and mindfulness practices are a great way to learn how to stay calm even if you are being triggered.
Seek out the perspectives of others:
We often make stories about a situation by rushing to assumptions. So, take a moment to slow down and seek out alternative perspectives. This is not an excuse to go and gossip about the situation but ask a trusted friend or mentor for their opinion.
Come with a position of respect for the other person:
If you lead with disrespect, it’ll escalate tensions and make the situation worse. You don’t have to agree, but always give respect to get respect back.
Watch your non-verbals:
When someone presses our buttons, we can either shut down or move to the defensive. And this will be obvious in both our language and body language. So, try to remain engaged and watch out for your body language so that things remain calm and professional.
Don’t take it personally:
Sometimes we act like the other person is purposely out to annoy or frustrate us. But the reality is that they’ve got their own thing going on and are focused on their own reality. Instead of taking it personally, try to remember that they are most likely only focusing on themselves and it’s not about you in that moment.
Don’t stay in the problems but move to solutions:
You can only move towards solutions if you start by listening to the other person and figure out what’s going on. Then, switch your mindset and look for how to resolve things.
Get some sleep:
No one functions at 100% when they are sleep-deprived! If you prioritize rest, you’ll not only feel better but be able to handle challenges and frustrations better.
Use the power of humor:
Laughter, silliness, and humor help us reframe and refocus away from the annoyances and challenges. You can do this by taking a break and listening to a comedian or connecting with someone who makes you laugh!
We can’t choose our colleagues, but we can choose how we interact with them. And while there will always be difficult people in the workplace, there are many strategies and coping mechanisms we can use to positively interact with them and resolve solutions. Next time you’re working with someone who is frustrating or challenging, try these 10 different strategies and just watch your work relationships improve!