Here are tried-and-true techniques for dealing with difficult people straight from the experts, without making those interactions even more difficult than they need to be.
First, devise a game plan.
Before you talk to someone who really grinds your gears, identify your reasons for speaking out. Do you just want to get your frustration off your chest, or do you hope the other person will change something about their behavior?
Keep it all in perspective.
When dealing with a difficult personality, try to really focus on the person and let them know they’re seen and heard, says Vital Voice Training co-founder Casey Erin Clark. “It’s an incredibly disarming thing, especially if you’re feeling upset. Not managing their emotions, but just saying I can see you,” she says. It’s easy to get so focused on what you want to tell someone, that you stop listening to what they bring to the table. Instead, actively focus on the person in front of you.
Choose your approach.
Armed with your insights, you need to decide how to confront the person. Rockey emphasizes the importance of treating the other person with respect and keeping yourself from getting defensive. That will just escalate the conversation, and yelling never solves anything. While there’s often no good time for this kind of chat, try to pick a time when neither of you are engaged in a stressful project. And never confront your annoying coworker in front of others unless you need a mediator for your own safety.
Decide when to drop the issue.
There’s a difference between behavior that meaningfully impacts your ability to live or work with someone and a personality quirk that drives you batty, but won’t ruin your life. If the issue impacts your reputation or your ability to do your job, then it’s time to escalate. But sometimes, you’ve got to live and let live.