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How to Interact With Difficult People

Learn practical strategies you can use to develop better working relationships with difficult people.

Almost everyone encounters a difficult person now and then in personal and professional life. The best defense against conflict in such a situation is to be prepared for interacting with difficult individuals.

1. Be honest and direct.

State your concern from your perspective, for example:

  • I have a hard time concentrating when ...
  • I can’t meet my deadlines if ...
  • It’s hard for me to be positive when ...

2. Listen carefully.

  • Listen to what the other person is saying instead of getting ready to react.
  • Avoid interrupting the other person.
  • After the other person finishes speaking, rephrase what was said to make sure you understand it.

3. Avoid blaming.

Focus on the facts. Finding fault can prevent problem-solving.

4. Stay focused.

  • Discuss particulars; avoid generalizing.
  • Avoid getting sidetracked into discussing other problems.
  • Keep bringing the conversation back to the concern you’ve stated.

5. Say less.

After you state the problem, allow silence until the other person responds.

If you need more information contact Employee Relations, (858) 534-4115.
Notice: The information on this page summarizes provisions of university policies and/or collective bargaining agreements. Refer to the Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM) and local implementing procedures or applicable collective bargaining agreement for full text of referenced information.