‘Dealing with difficult people’ (28 February 2018)

This month, a colleague and I delivered two of the workshops at an ‘awayday’ for the staff of a large organisation. We had been given the title of our workshop: ‘Dealing with difficult people’.

My colleague started the workshops by asking the two groups (of about 30 people each) how many of them have to deal with difficult people at work. Virtually all hands went up. He then asked how many of them considered themselves to be difficult people. About 5 hands went up in each group.

Perhaps this is an illustration of a tendency many of us have: we attribute other people’s behaviour to their character, but attribute our own behaviour to the circumstances we are in at the time. He was late because he’s lazy; I was late because my car wouldn’t start.

My main role at the two workshops was to spend half an hour talking about how some mediation techniques can be helpful in dealing with ‘difficult people’ or difficult situations at work. I focused on ‘reframing’. For example, a party to a mediation may say about her colleague: ‘She is a slob!’. The mediator would try to reframe this by saying: ‘It bothers you when you find her papers spread around the office.’

The workshop participants went through a couple of short scenarios and suggested some very useful ways of reframing inflammatory statements.