When discussing dealing with dealing people in my seminars, someone inevitably says something along the lines of, “Well, they just shouldn’t act that way.”  My typical response is, “According to whom?”

At this point the other person usually attempts to further defend their position about how other people should and should not behave.  A few people in the audience will immediately understand where I’m going with this question.

Do you see the problem here?

If you are dependent on other people’s behavior, you are doomed.  There’s just no way around it; I wish there were.  If a driver doesn’t use his turn signal and this makes you crazy, who is the one having the problem?  Who is the one whose day is ruined?

Right, you are the one that suffers.

You can’t control what other people do.

Let me say it again, because some of you will have experienced temporary blindness and skipped right over that last sentence.  You can not control what other people do.

You can certainly influence what other people do, but that’s not the first step to effectively dealing with difficult people.

I’m a big fan of heading problems off at the source.  If there is an easy way to make a problem go away, you better believe, I’m going there first.  That’s what we’re going to do here.

You can only control your own behavior.  Some of us aren’t even great at that, so why would we think we could control another!  So, if you can only control yourself, what you want to do is get rid of rigid thinking about others.

This means you need to be begin to banish words like “must, should and have to” from your language and your thoughts about other people.  Anytime you have an absolute like this, you are just asking for people to violate your rule and get under your skin.  Without this rigid thinking, less people are going to bug you and guess what, that means you will find fewer people difficult.

Because difficult is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Chances are the person who you think is being difficult, might not agree with your assessment of them.  In fact, they might even think that you are the one who’s being difficult.

So, get a leg up on everyone else and lose the rigid thinking.  This will give you more flexibility in how you deal with other people and we know that the person with the most flexibility wins.  Just ask any child whose temper-tantrum in a public place has just been rewarded with a new toy.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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