Scrooge and Other Villains: A Holiday Course in Handling Difficult People
by Rich Gallagher, Point of Contact Group
It’s the holidays! That time of year that we celebrate the good relationships in our lives. But what about those people you work with who seem to forget the “good will to all men (or women)” part? Here are some fresh ideas on how to deal with them, whether they are naughty or nice:
Some people just ooze negativity. So how do you deal with those who constant criticize and naysay? Use their language. Try the “empty chair” technique therapists use: Picture Scrooge in an empty chair listening to you, and then sit in that chair and respond the way Scrooge would. For example, if you accuse him of being a control freak, he might respond that he’s simply “detail oriented” or “concerned with high standards.” Echo his words and watch Scrooge take you much more seriously.
2. The Snow Queen
How do you talk to someone who always has to be right, and unleashes a blizzard of anger if you challenge her? Acknowledge her position first, even if you violently disagree with it. Play back her view of the world, and you disarm of her of her weapons ‒ because she knows you already “get” her.
3. Jack Frost
What about icy, passive-aggressive people who shut down at the drop of a hat? Open them up by giving them power. Let Jack choose whether to respond now or later. And consider using a “negative option” strategy for how you will move forward whether he responds or not.
Each of these situations use principles from strength-based communication, an evidence-based approach that speaks to the strengths and interests of the other person. This approach has been sweeping fields ranging from athletics to psychotherapy ‒ and with a little effort, can add a lot more holiday cheer to your workplace communications.
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Rich Gallagher, LMFT is a former customer service executive and practicing psychotherapist who heads the Point of Contact Group. He is the author of two #1 customer service bestsellers and has taught over 25,000 people what to say in their worst customer and workplace situations.