Strategies to Handle Difficult People or Problems


  • Author Anne Bachrach
  • Published March 23, 2012
  • Word count 1,122

Have you ever wondered how to overcome difficult issues or problems? Wait a minute. What does that mean? Difficult issues and problems? How does one define a difficult issue? You can assume that anything that makes you feel stressed or that prevents you from performing your job adequately qualifies as a difficult issue or problem. A difficult problem indicates a person, place or thing that is causing interference. A difficult issue implies difficulty that is not necessarily tangible. This might include something that cannot simply be hidden or expelled. A difficult employee can be fired. An offensive picture can be taken down from a wall. However, a major scandal that every news outlet has covered cannot be erased. This is a critical issue, and one that may leave you clueless on how to resolve it. Let’s start by considering some of the most common problems reported in any organization.

Dealing with Difficult People

It’s easy to address difficulty issues with inanimate objects. If a tool is not functioning properly then it should be replaced. However, when you’re discussing people the issue becomes far more complex. It is true that people can be "replaced" just like tools. For the most part, employers will understand that building a cooperative team effort is important and that any divisive element (even a likable person) may have to be dismissed. Sometimes this could be a difficult issue for co-workers, if the difficult person is liked by management or possesses some valuable skill that disqualifies him from firing. If this is the case then co-workers must try to co-exist with that personality without making a public commotion.

This issue becomes challenging however, when the difficult people are actually people that you need. You may have to deal with difficult students or difficult customers at some point. Striking out at them or even demanding that they leave the premises, may not be an option if you have limited authority. Furthermore, such action is usually not in your best interest, since they are your "clients" and are essentially the reason you are in business. How do you go about getting along with difficult people?

Strategy 1: Dealing with Difficult Team Members or Employees. First consider how you can handle a difficult person. Always try and remain calm. Remember that the feelings you display are contagious. Getting angry or becoming insulting with a difficult employee will provoke him or her to further argument. Try and keep communication on a positive level and emphasize that disagreement is not personal. The primary rule of conflict management is to avoid win-lose arguments at all costs. You do not want to "win" or inspire competitive feelings in the difficult student. You want to emphasize problem-solving; in essence, giving the employee a dignified way out of the conflict.

Strategy 2: Dealing with an Irate Client. Much like dealing with troubled employees, an angry client is anxious to fight against what he or she perceives to be a corrupt system. You must minimize conflict and resist striking back at the client, even if you are provoked. This strategy can actually be broken down into separate steps.

  1. By maintaining a calm composure, you can defuse the conflict.

  2. Now that you have the attentions of the client, listen closely to what they have to say.

  3. Empathize with them and show that you care about their perspective.

  4. Refrain from mentioning a "policy" if possible and instead explain why you cannot give them what they want, if you can’t. For instance, if they are asking for a refund, first explain why it’s not cost-feasible from your perspective.

  5. After explaining your official stance, then try and find a compromise to keep them happy.

  6. Last but not least, write down their complaint and consider whether your system needs modification in order to cut down on client dissatisfaction.

Dealing with Difficult Situations

It’s harder to make bad publicity go away. You can’t exactly dismiss an unfavorable review from your "organization", nor can you order a public scandal to be kept quiet. When dealing with a difficult situation, try and remember some basic communication tips. Be honest in all things. Saying "I don’t know" is being honest when you don’t know. A few people might respect your honesty, but the majority of people aren’t probably used to someone telling the truth, sadly as that may seem. In many situations, when you tell the truth, people will respond more positively than you may think. Apologizing and listening are powerful characteristics.

If you don’t know the answer to something, you could use the honest approach and promise the person or people that you will return with the answer. You could defer a difficult topic to an expert rather than risk commenting on your own. You could answer a question with another question, or even give a parallel answer on what you do know, which satisfies the asker’s curiosity but avoids strong commitment.

If you would like more knowledge on how to cope with difficult situations, problematic people and other work-related problems, then order Accountability Coaching’s training course. This educational course will teach you everything you need to be successful in life and to avoid problems along the way.

Another solution might be if you have difficult clients or prospects is to choose not to work with them; therefore, never needing to learn how to deal with these kind of people. Think about this for a minute. You probably don’t have difficult friends – if people you know are difficult, they probably aren’t your friends or aren’t your friends for long. How much better would your life be without people in it who are difficult?

Brian Tracy talks about the first time you think about firing someone, you should. How much better would it be to shorten the time to try and deal with someone who is difficult and make the situation better, when it may never be? What else could you do with your time that would be a better use of it than to deal with difficult people?

How much better would your life be if there were no difficult people or very few difficult people in it? How would you feel? Consider what would have to happen to create this in your life, if you like the idea. No more negative emotions when that ‘difficult’ person calls or comes by the office for an appointment. No more complaining employees when they have to deal with a ‘difficult’ person. No more taking on people like this who later you wish you never did. I’m starting to feel better just thinking about no more ‘difficult’ people in my life any more, are you?

Anne Bachrach is president of the California based accountability coaching firm, A.M. Enterprises. By utilizing her powerful processes, Anne's clients learn how to maximize their talents and experience a great quality of life. Her fresh approach to business is a much-needed change for stagnant businesses. For more information, go to her website at

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