Monday, Jul 13, 2020
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Talking Tips | How to deal with difficult colleagues

Difficult people are everywhere, and the workplace is where they love to hang out. So it can be very helpful to develop skills to manage that colleague who rubs you the wrong way. I am talking about that person who tries to bully you or make you feel small.

1. Get your head in the game. Nothing is worse than dreading to go to a place where you spend most of your day because you are forced to work with someone who causes you angst. For self-preservation, the first thing you may want to do is pay attention to the emotions your interactions with this person evoke. Do they make you angry? Do you feel threatened? Do they make you feel stupid? I say get your head in the game, because it is very easy to be overtaken by our emotions without full awareness. You may say, ‘They just make me mad’. The question is, why? Why does your blood boil when you have to deal with them? Do they overstep your boundaries? Do you feel disrespected or under-appreciated? Label it. It is important to know what you are feeling. For instance, if someone always tries to make themselves look good by trying to make you look small, you may grapple with feelings of inadequacy. However, once you recognize this, you can take control. If the office bully consistently tries to demean others to elevate themselves, it is a clear indication they are the ones suffering from feelings of insecurity. People who are truly confident do not need to prop themselves up by stepping on others. This realization alone is empowering. This person is clearly insecure. There is no such thing as a superiority complex; studies in psychology indicate it is all fueled by feelings of insignificance.

2. See it for what it is. If someone is focusing all their negative attention on you, that is more about them than it is about you. Refuse to relinquish your power and allow them to wreck your emotions. You are the only one who can decide how you feel about a situation. Instead of allowing yourself to be upset, distance yourself emotionally. Visualize you are dealing with someone from a different planet. Pretend they are offensive because they don’t know better.

3. Take control. The next time they attempt to back you into a corner or try to demean you, stay calm, cool and collected with the understanding they are doing this out of their own feelings of inadequacy. In your mind’s eye see them as small and insignificant and yourself as strong and powerful. You don’t have to attack or defend. Instead, shift the focus and equalize the power by asking constructive questions like, ‘How would you do it?’, ‘What would be your ideal?’ or ‘What do you mean when you say this is stupid?’ Remember your body is speaking louder than your words. Do not fold your arms; keep your body open, it suggests you are open. Do not back away, bring your head forward and give them eye contact. Do not glare but assume equality.

4. Listen actively. Listen attentively, don’t interrupt. Questions can put you in the driver’s seat. Listen to understand. Many people bully because they do not feel heard or understood. Summarize and repeat to them what you understood they said.

5. Validate the person. You can say something like, ‘I can understand why you may see it that way’, or ‘If I were you I would feel the same way’. This statement is always true. If you had their personality, life experiences, personal goals, etc. you would feel the same way.

6. Shift to open conversation. If you are about to inject a differing point of view, do not transition with the word ‘but’; instead, use a connecting word like ‘and’. For example, ‘I understand why you would see it that way… and if we add this, we can probably accomplish everything you are trying to achieve’.

7. Refuse to fuel the negative energy. What we focus on expands. Refrain from focusing your attention on the negativity. Resist making this bad situation the topic of conversation. Do not demonize the person; believe you can create a better working relationship. Meditate on the outcome you desire. If you render the situation hopeless, you short circuit your mental power to find the solution.

• Kim Welcome is the CEO of Influential Voice. A communication trainer and coach, she assists businesses and professionals to achieve their goals by helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. Contact: [email protected] or call 242-225-9013.

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