Thursday, February 4, 2010

Difficult People are People Too

I work as a Consultant, Corporate Trainer and Mentor to many. The most popular question that comes up in our one-to-one sessions is...

How Do I Use Empathy in Communicating With Someone who refuses to Meet Me Half Way?

In essence, why would you want to waste time building bridges to someone who has a gas can in their hand?

Great Question....No Simple Answer!

But, then if Human Relations were simple why would we wake up every day. Human Beings are infinitely complex and undefinable but here are two tips that might help you "be the bigger person":
* Questions not Instructions
* Action Items not Complaints

Our temper knows not rules of engagement. It rises in us like a phoenix on crystal meth. You have done everything you should: put in extra hours, researched, gathered resources and woke up 3 hours early to complete the task. Now, your progress has been halted by someone who had one simple task and fouled it up. Your temper will drive you to attack. Take a breath, think to yourself of a personal issue that derailed your professional progress in the past and put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Instead of telling said person how they f-ed up and what needs to be done immediately...ease in with patience and ask a few questions. People just want to be heard and understood, not criticised and instructed.

The easiest question to ask would be: Why didn't you have your portion of the project to me by the deadline? This will put the already paranoid malcontent on the defensive and bring greater distance between you. Try to get past the obvious question and dig a little deeper:
Jim, it's been a heck of a week, you must have a lot on your plate. Let's review your task list and I will see what I can delegate on your behalf.
* Jim is off the defensive, ready to open up and willing to ask for help!

In this day and age of struggle and strife one thing rings true in every area of social intercourse: COMPLAINING.....there is no single human element I have less tolerance for than complaining.
* FACT: Never in the history of humanity has a complaint produced a result!

We have learned to redirect our instructions into questions. Now let's use the same measure of patience in redirecting our complaints into action items.
Complaint: These TPS reports suck!
Supplemental Action Item: Ms. VP - it seems these TPS reports are taking up a lot of time that is distracting us from revenue producing opportunities. I have run some preliminary numbers and it appears the time put into reporting is costing us about $1,200 in weekly labor hours. Can this time be better spent? I wondered if we might entertain the option of implementing a new software system that would streamline our reporting process. The front end implementation would be costly but based on the numbers provided above we would see a Return on Investment in just 7 months.

Here are two ways to put patience to work, gain results by winning people to your way of thinking and eliminating the unnecessary stress of internal conflict.

People just want to be loved! They want to know that we understand and empathise with their struggle. Let them speak, make suggestions for progress and help them develop your instructions for themselves.

In the next installment of this blog series we will learn:
* How to build rules of engagement for every relationship
* How to win one little battle at a time (without being transparent)

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave


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