Is the Problem THAT Guy…?

or is it Me?

water break

We’ve all worked with THAT person; the one who is constantly argumentative, combative or even verbally abusive. Professionals in client service or customer satisfaction fields perhaps encounter more than their fair share.

“Mean”. “Evil”. “Vindictive”.

Powerful – and powerfully negative – adjectives are routinely thrown around, and we can be quick to label difficult individuals as such. Regardless of their specific definitions, all these adjectives imply a negative intention. It’s too easy to perceive these people as actually trying to be disruptive.

It’s easy because your own intention, agenda or project is blocked or delayed, you’re frustrated, and labeling them can engender consideration or sympathy from co-workers and associates, as well as justify your feelings to yourself. It’s an understandable reaction, but is it actually a helpful response?

Is it moving your initiative forward?

The Momentum Consulting Coaching Team has spoken and written many times about the difference between reactions and responses. A reaction is quick, without much thought, and is emotion-based. A response is considered, with thought and reason applied. Our greatest power lies in our ability to respond; though we cannot control everything that happens to us, we CAN control our responses.

I would like to suggest taking a minute to consider what might be happening in that challenging person’s life, to put yourself in their shoes. Is your project directly impacting one of his key initiatives? Is she working 14-hour days? Does he have a very sick family member? Is she under huge pressure from her boss? Is this the way he was trained to problem solve? Has she been promoted on her ability to beat down suppliers?

A little empathy can go a long way and is worth a minute of your time.

Before reacting emotionally, consider the probability that the individual does not intend to be combative. Most people are, in fact, honest and well-meaning. Look for positive intent from them and make sure you are communicating your own.

Self-fulfilling prophecies can be incredibly effective; try believing that this difficult individual has positive intentions. Before reacting verbally, count to three, breathe deeply, or just be silent for a minute. Wait for your better self – the one that has reason and empathy – to show up. This takes practice, and we’ll slip up sometimes, but it has a robust ROI of better relationships and reduced stress.

Thinking of one or two people to which this might apply? Tell me about it!



Fundamental of the Week #24: ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT . Work from the assumption that people are good, fair, and honest. Set aside your own judgments or preconceived notions and give people the benefit of the doubt. Look for the positive intent in their actions and communications.

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