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PA MATTERS TO YOU - Strategies for Dealing With Difficult People
April 03, 2013
Dear Reader,



Identifying Difficult People
'Difficult people' - we have all been exasperated by them. Some of us have to contend with a difficult person at work: perhaps it's a colleague. In which case, developing an effective strategy for engaging them is essential. Difficult people seem to make a mountain out of a molehill. They are adept at turning a simple conversation into an argument or a fight. You have to rehearse your lines before approaching them and hope for the best. You may even find that, over time, you permanently tune them out so that they have to try even harder to get you to listen and actually hear them.

Maintaining Control of Your Own Behaviour
An ex-boss of mine once told me "never argue with a fool because if someone passes by while you're arguing, they won't be able to tell which one is the fool." This is good advice and it goes to the heart of the matter. What he was really saying is that if you want positive interactions with difficult people you have to set the standard of behaviour and take responsibility for the outcome. Taking responsibility forces you to change your behaviour. It's important to note that the difficult person has a completely different perception of the problem: in his or her mind, you are the difficult person.

What's Behind the Difficult Behaviour?
The difficult person's perception of the situation is an important factor but their motivation is the key. What motivates them to behave that way? One possible reason is resentment. A difficult person may see your attempts to reason with them as a lack of respect for their opinions.

Other Important Factors
There are two categories of difficult people: 'chronically difficult' and 'acutely difficult'. Most people are short-tempered, irritated, and acutely difficult with others from time to time. Chronically difficult people often have strongly negative beliefs about people in general and generally don't trust others. This comes across in their interactions. At the core of their negativity is low self-esteem.

The Cycle of Low Self-esteem
When low self-esteem drives the cycle of negative behaviour, the difficult person's negative beliefs about others become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rejection of their point of view is interpreted as rejection of self. This in turn fuels lack of trust and generally sabotages their interactions and relationships.

Interrupting the Negative Cycle
If you would like to take control of your interactions with a difficult person, first change your own behaviour. Start by refusing to take their negative comments seriously. Behave in an unexpectedly positive way, using upbeat words and phrases. Use humour to skilfully deflect their negative comments and defuse their attempts to start an argument. Ignore insecure behaviour and sarcasm, and focus on the productive aspects of their conversations. Eventually, the difficult person will realise that you are not easily baited.

Aim to change their beliefs about you over time so that their expectations about communicating with you are positive ones. This should improve the emotion behind their interactions. An important thing to remember is that 'acutely difficult' can quickly become 'chronically difficult' if interactions are not skilfully managed to stop a cycle of negative communication escalating.

by Marguerita King

London, Wednesday 24 April 2013

If you are looking for a good PA refresher course to bring your skills up-to-date with modern PA best practice, our "PA Duties: Mastering the Essentials" course is an excellent choice. This 1-day intermediate-level course uses in-depth case studies and exercises to show PAs, secretaries and Administrators how to think outside the box and go one step beyond usual practice in the following areas.


- Strategies for creating a productive working relationship with your boss

- Developing time saving email and dairy management procedures

- Time managing and prioritising your day

- Strategies for planning effective Meetings

- Thinking outside the box when planning executive travel

- Business writing: writing for your audience

- Raising your game with continuous professional development

Places are available on this course. Please cut and paste the following link to view the full course outline, prices and future course dates.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or suggestions.

Marguerita King,
Managing Director,
Personal Assistant Tips,
Suite 16413, 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PW, England
Tel: +44 (0)845 862 2687,
Mobile: +44 (0)7771 648521,
Fax: +44 (0)207 183 9899

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