During 1998 I was busy running workshops about dealing with difficult people, including sometimes at Wembley Conference centre where I was able to make a recording that is still available for sale at Sherwood Publishing. A key point that I made was the importance of curiosity – and of believing that everyone you meet is bringing you a message. Below is what I wrote then (Hay, 1998).
Dealing with Difficult People is the sort of headline that always attracts. There can be few of us who have never felt the need, whether the difficult person is a colleague or a customer, a client of our services or our manager, or even a friend or family member.
Much training is provided in various approaches to interpersonal skills but somehow the problem seems to remain. Recent developments, including some interesting results from research into how the brain works, have generated some new techniques.
A useful belief to have if you want to get on better with people is that everyone you meet brings you a message. This is a variation on the belief that the universe acts in purposeful ways, even if these may seem random to mortals! Whether the belief is true or not, acting as if it is will definitely improve your relationships. This is because our brains work on a self-fulfilling prophecy basis.
We have all had the experience of being in a bad mood, and then feeling sure that our next interaction will result in an argument. And then it does - because we unwittingly emitted body language signals that indicated we expected trouble. The other person then felt threatened or annoyed so they in turn became irritated and responded accordingly.
This process can be sidelined if we cultivate a heightened sense of curiosity. Instead of becoming impatient or annoyed with another person, we can concentrate on finding out why the universe has sent them to us. To do this, we have to ask questions. As we ask these questions, the other person feels flattered that we are so interested in them. They therefore respond in a positive manner and we find ourselves realising that they are quite a reasonable person after all.
Another benefit is that we often realise that their comments are actually quite useful. Instead of dismissing them, we listen properly and can hear the parts that are relevant to us. We can improve this process still further if we learn the skills of paraphrasing. If we genuinely paraphrase rather than ‘parrot-phrasing’, we generate several advantages, including:
Hay, Julie (1998) Dealing with Difficult People: The Power of Curiosity Training Matters Spring 5
© 2018 Julie Hay
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