Difficult People or Difficult Behaviors

Have you ever worked with an individual who left you feeling run over? Or someone who left you feeling inadequate because they seemed to know everything? Or maybe you grew very frustrated trying to get a decision out of someone who kept putting it off?

If you have any kind of a job that depends on other people to accomplish a task, you will no doubt, at some point, run across individuals like those just described. At some point in our career, we all will interact with individuals who we refer to as "difficult people." And while this may make our job and/or life less than fulfilling at the time, we can still find ways to relate and be productive.

So what is a difficult person anyway? Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner in their bestselling book, Dealing With People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, describe a difficult person in the following manner. "They're those difficult people who don't do what you want them to do, or do what you don't want them to do- and you don't know what to do about them." Throughout the next several postings I will share some of the authors' insights and wisdom and, maybe, some personal experiences along the way.

To start, I will share a personal perspective on the issue of "difficult people." Over the last 40 years of my professional career, I have always been in roles that interact with people. From being a counselor to working in the Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to working in human resources, I have enjoyed the opportunity to experience a variety of people with different life perspectives. At the same time, I have been in a wonderful family that includes my wife, one adult daughter, and three adult sons. In all of my interactions with others I have never met a difficult person. Don't get me wrong. I have met several individuals whom I didn't like and couldn't stand to be around, but it wasn't the person that made them unlikeable. It was their behavior. Every time I reflect upon what I don't like about a person, I find myself focused on their behavior. Therefore, I prefer to refer to difficult behaviors and not difficult people.

So, on that personal note, let's start by describing some typical difficult behaviors that cause individuals to be perceived as difficult people. The authors refer to these difficult behaviors as "The 10 Most Unwanted List." This list refers to specific behavior patterns that people fall into when they feel threatened by a situation. Those behavior patterns are;

1. The tank- confrontational, pointed, and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior

2. The sniper- rude, sarcastic, rolling of the eyes to make another person look foolish

3. The grenade- explodes into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances

4. The know-it-all- low tolerance for correction and contradiction, quick to blame others when something goes wrong

5. The think-they-know-it-all- can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time

6. The yes person- please people and avoid confrontation, say yes without thinking things through

7. The maybe person- procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself 

8. The nothing person- no verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback, nothing

9. The no person- fights a never ending battle for futility, hopelessness, and despair

10. The whiner- feels helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world, perfection is the standard

As you review these brief descriptions, you will no doubt have vivid memories of certain individuals who have made your job and/or life unpleasant. And, if you are honest, you may even find a memory of yourself reacting in such a manner.

In the next posting I'll explore what leads to these behavior patterns. If you find yourself really interested in this material, more detail and in-depth knowledge can be found in the book; Dealing With People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Until next time, keep an eye open for examples of difficult behavior.