How to deal with people you just want to strangle

angry woman shouting at colleague
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Dealing with challenging behaviour in the workplace is not easy, but there are tactics you can use to reduce conflict and take control of stressful situations. 

Sometimes we find ourselves in a difficult situation, where the behaviour or attitude of another person pushes all the wrong behavioural buttons and the choices they make, things they say or actions they take rile us.

Or, it may be that you can identify certain naysayers, doubters or whingers; the people I refer to as Slinkies.

Like the toy, they’re not much good for anything but a lot of fun when pushed down the stairs. I should perhaps be clear that I’m not at all endorsing anything other than imaginative violence towards others!

Thinking before acting?

It is worth remembering that many people react quickly with little thought or planning – the space that exists between stimulus and our response, where we are able to choose our response, eludes many of us.

Sometimes a pair of outside eyes to help guide decisions, behaviour and responses can be especially useful and that’s where instead of in turn reacting yourself to the difficult situation, taking a step back and analysing the best course of action can be particularly helpful.

A lot can be garnered from seeking to understand purpose and drive.

My Grandmother used to advise: “Always try to be the better person”; her ideology refers to the fact that when others are behaving in a less than ideal way, it offers us a behavioural mirror and an opportunity to respond alternately.

The importance of the environment

In addition to reacting quickly, we are all influenced by external factors and of course the environment we find ourselves in, so be mindful of things which may have affected the other person’s behaviour: family circumstances, an especially stressful day or poor time management, for example.

For persistently challenging individuals, begin by asking what their main concern, challenge or objection is.

We all have a story to tell and none of us can profess to be perfect all of the time, no matter how hard we try. We classically tend to adopt the most common emotion which surrounds us at any one time: be mindful of this when you find yourself being dragged into responding how others are and remember that we can choose both our mindset and behaviour.

For persistently challenging individuals, begin by asking what their main concern, challenge or objection is to get to the root cause of just why their behaviour is so difficult. We often neglect to discover why people think or behave the way they do and a lot can be garnered from seeking to understand purpose and drive.

Spending some time talking around this main issue is worthwhile so as to explore the barriers to effective working practice: what can be done about it?

'Be more Mickey'

Don’t ever be afraid to take control of the situation, without being threatening: suggest that they take some time out to reflect or step back from the situation if they become especially emotional or if communication breaks down.

It is very difficult to be angry or argumentative with Mickey Mouse because for a start he doesn’t speak and he exudes a calm, positive demeanor. Be more Mickey.

Don’t ever be afraid to take control of the situation.

Calmly and practically telling them that their behaviour, point of view or attitude is not helping or conducive to the environment you wish to harbor is often the reality check many need to stop, self-assess and repair.

The bottom line though is that you should also provide assistance and support in helping to improve their behaviour, where possible.

About Jez Rose

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