On Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 our panelists, Don Swift, Seonaid Acevedo, and Craig Bolles, convened on the stage at The Forum in Wichita Falls to a crowd of over 100 people to discuss conflict resolution and How to Deal with Difficult People.

“Everyone, raise your right hand and repeat after me,” said Emily Kincaid, Marketing Director at the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, “I am a difficult person.” 

Emily is correct. We are all a difficult person to someone. It’s not easy to admit, but it’s true. When it comes to someone not fulfilling their job duties, getting along with co-workers, satisfying a hard-to-please customer, or recognizing the underlying causes of difficult behavior in an employee, boss or customer, we tend to have tunnel vision and lose sight of the big picture and end up falling short at resolving conflict.

7 Things to Remember when dealing with a difficult person

If we can step back and re-evaluate how we approach the difficult person or situation, we will find that there are very basic, yet IMPORTANT skills that help us deal with difficult people and situations.

  1. LISTEN – This is the number one step in dealing with a difficult person. Everyone wants to feel heard! Actively listening and acknowledging (validating) the cause for upset or bad behavior
  2. Be Respectful – No matter how the other person is treating you or speaking to you, do not show contempt, ridicule or judgment. Doing so will escalate the situation.
  3.  Validate – Once you’ve listened to the underlying cause or complaint, validating it will continue to ease the situation. Repeat the complaint/issue and the cause. A negative reaction from us can make difficult people…more difficult.
  4. Finding Commonality – When it’s someone you have trouble connecting to (ie. getting along), finding something you have in common will go a long way to helping you to each be more amenable to finding solutions, together. This goes back to being able to LISTEN effectively.
  5. Maintain a calm demeanor. When faced with a conflict, remember to relax your outward appearance, uncross your arms, open your body language and monitor your breathing. Emotions can feed on each other. Reflect your behavior onto them, instead of allowing their emotions to affect you. This leads us to…
  6. Lower your voice.  When a difficult person has a raised voice, they want to be heard. If you speak at their level, the volume continues to rise. By lowering your own voice, it will force them to lower theirs in the effort to hear what you are saying.
  7. Maintain eye-contact. Eye-contact has a persuasive effect upon the people you encounter. By maintaining it, you exhibit confidence and control of the situation.
Chamber Key Takeaway:

 Listening !!!
By listening, you’ll discover any hidden need or cause of difficult behavior.

Craig Bolles, GM at Texas Roadhouse, explained that they had an employee that was scheduled to be at work at 33:45 pm but was consistently 10 minutes late. Coworkers were getting upset, it was affecting the flow of work and it could have been a cause to terminate.  But, Craig listened to her when she explained why. Her child got out of school at 3:30 and she had to pick her up and take her to daycare by 3:45 which put her 10 minutes late.  Craig thought, “Why are we scheduling her at an impossible time?” A simple solution was to change her schedule to 4:15 pm and she was never late again!

Listening to anyone, with your full attention, shows respect, understanding and gives validity to their concerns and thoughts.

Don Swift: Don Swift & Associates
Soenaid Acevedo: Management at Blue Cross/Blue Shield
Craig Bolles: Managing Partner for Texas Roadhouse


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