Some people know exactly how to be difficult; they’re the people who bring you down with their negativity, criticism or anger, they refuse to cooperate, they’re irritating, frustrating and often infuriating, and if you respond to someone else’s difficult behaviour with anger and blame, withdrawal or compliance, you may end up feeling guilty, stressed or depressed, according to Gill Hasson in her book How To Deal With Difficult People: Smart Tactics for Overcoming the Problem People in Your Life.
After discussing the differences between openly hostile behaviour, disguised hostility and passive behaviour, the author goes on to discuss ways of communicating with difficult people, including:
- Active listening, which minimises the likelihood of communication breakdown
- Minimal encouragers, being sounds and body language which should be used calmly and in a neutral way
- Questions about feelings, with the aim of developing some degree of empathy
- Controlled use of body language
- Using an appropriate degree of assertiveness
All of these actions require you to be able to control your own emotional response, something which is very difficult to do in a situation of open conflict. Moreover, as the author indicates numerous times, you need to be able to develop a high level of self-awareness, so that you can form an objective understanding of the extent to which you might be contributing to the conflict.
The book seems to concentrate on how to deal with difficult relational situations when they arise, rather than preventing such situations in the first place by investing in relationship building. Nonetheless, in my opinion this reasonably short book provides a number of useful suggestions for dealing with the sorts of situations that everyone encounters but most people dread.