The following material is gives a good perspective to dealing with difficult people. It was written by Doug Dickerson.
While the person you are irritated with may never change, understanding a few basic concepts will at least ease your frustration. Allow me to share a few simple guidelines when dealing with difficult people.
First, treat the difficult person the way you want to be treated. Itâ€™s a timeless principle, but timeless for a reason. Itâ€™s effective. You may never change the behavior patterns of the difficult people in your organization, but when you model courteous, professional behavior, hopefully somewhere down the line they will get a clue.
A difficult person, more times than not, is that way by choice. An advisor to President Lincoln suggested a certain candidate for Lincolnâ€™s cabinet. But Lincoln refused, saying, â€œI donâ€™t like the manâ€™s face.â€ â€œBut sir, he canâ€™t be responsible for his face,â€ insisted the advisor. â€œEvery man over forty is responsible for his face,â€ replied Lincoln, and the subject was dropped. Just as you are responsible for your face, so is that difficult person. Itâ€™s not your responsibility to change him, just treat him the way you want to be treated.
Second, take the high road. Lowering yourself to the level of that difficult person is never the answer. Donâ€™t allow yourself to be drawn in to anotherâ€™s bad behavior by behaving bad yourself. Keep your emotions and attitude in check. Donâ€™t be like the man who was told by his physician, â€œYes indeed, you do have rabies.â€ Upon hearing this, the patient immediately pulled out a pad and pencil and began to write. Thinking the man was making out his will, the doctor said, â€œListen, this doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re going to die. There is a cure for rabies.â€ â€œOh, I know that,â€ the man said. â€œIâ€™m just making a list of all the people Iâ€™m going to bite.â€
John Maxwell said, â€œThe disposition of a leader is important because it will influence the way the followers think and feel. Great leaders understand that the right attitude will set the right atmosphere, which enables the right responses from others.â€ When difficult people surround you, take the high road, perhaps others will follow you. But if not, then heed to advice of my next point.
Third, protect the morale and productivity of your organization. As a leader, itâ€™s your duty to protect your teamâ€™s integrity and morale. Allowing a difficult person to continue on in his or her job, in the end, may cause more harm than good. As someone once said, â€œWhat you tolerate, you promote.â€
Treating the difficult person the way you want to be treated, taking the high road, and protecting morale are key components of your leadership. When people in your office are walking on egg shells around a difficult person, it can be a messy situation. Do your team a favor- act with compassion, act with conviction, and act quickly.