Strategies for Difficult Behaviors

When dealing with difficult behaviors, the first element is to remind yourself of the intent behind the behavior. What is the person attempting to achieve with this behavior. Behind the "tank," the "sniper," and the "know-it-all" is the intent to get the task done. The person is acting aggressively to get something accomplished so that he or she can do more. Therefore, the person appears to be trying to control everything, including other people.

Behind the "grenade," the "sniper," and the "think-they-know-it-all" is the intent to gain the appreciation of others. This behavior is aggressively focused on the reactions of others or on the people instead of the task. Therefore, the person works hard at achieving others appreciation, to the point of constantly seeking attention.

When it comes to less aggressive behavior that is focused on the task, the intent becomes one of getting the task right. The person is focused on making certain that every aspect of the task is done perfectly. This perfectionist behavior becomes an irritant to others trying to accomplish an outcome. As a result the intent of getting it right at all costs is behind the behavior of a "nothing person," a "no person," and a "whiner."

As for the "maybe person," the "yes person," and the "nothing person," the intent behind their passive behavior focused on people is to get along. This group of personality types will do whatever is needed to seek approval from others, even to the point of alienating another person with their difficult behaviors.

Hopefully, it is becoming apparent that when working with someone who exhibits these difficult behaviors, you do not want to take their behaviors personally. By understanding how and why these behaviors are developed, it is easier to see the difficult behavior as an attempted to achieve a specific goal and that it has nothing to do with you as the target of the behavior.

Therefore, the second element of dealing with these behaviors is to have some strategies handy and not be caught totally off-guard. Following are just a few suggestions from the bestseller; 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.

The "Whiner":  This person wallows in their worries with no attempts at a conclusion or solution. The "whiner" feels helpless at making the situation perfect and, therefore, just gives up. So when dealing with a "whiner" have patience, compassion, and commitment. However, don't agree with the "whiner" or disagree with them either. Also don't solve their problems for them or ask them why they are complaining. Your goal should be to form a problem-solving alliance and you do that by;

  1. listening for the main points,
  2. interrupting when necessary to stop the whinning and take charge of the conversation to get to the specific details,
  3. once you have control of the direction, refocus the attention on solutions and what the "whiner" really wants,
  4. help the person find something to look forward to, and
  5. be willing to draw the line and walk the "whiner" to the door.

The "Know-it-all":  This person is extremely knowledgeable and is very assertive, to the point of being outspoken. Sometimes it is easy to address the "know-it-all" by becoming a "know-it-all' yourself. Instead remain flexible, patient, and even clever at how you present your own ideas. The goal with the "know-it-all" is to get him or her to open his or her mind to new information and ideas by;

  1. being prepared and know your stuff,
  2. being willing to share your understanding of what they are saying,
  3. making certain you know their criteria behind their opinions,
  4. presenting your views indirectly and in a non-confrontational way, and
  5. getting the "know-it-all" to agree to be a mentor for other staff.

The "Grenade":  This person, in order to gain that appreciation, becomes immediately the center of attention. When this happens your instinct is to either blow up yourself or to withdraw and get as far away as possible. Your goal with the "grenade" is to take back the control of the situation when the "grenade" blows up by;

  1. getting the person's attention both verbally and physically,
  2. Showing that you genuinely care about the person and his or her problem,
  3. reducing the intensity of the person's reaction so that you can connect with the person,
  4. taking time to let the adrenaline cool down before addressing the response, and
  5. identifying what sets-off the "grenade" and developing the relationship to prevent it from happening again.

The "Yes Person":  In the attempt to get along, this person many times fails to fully consider the task and all of the consequences involved. Your goal with the "yes person" is to get commitments you can count on from him or her by;

  1. creating a climate where the person feels safe in being honest,
  2. being honest yourself with your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions,
  3. helping the person create a plan he or she can commit to and keep,
  4. having the person repeat the plan, write it down, set deadlines, and describe the negative outcomes from not meeting the commitment, and
  5. looking for every opportunity to strengthen the relationship, thus fulfilling his or her need to get along.

Although I have not given you examples of how to address each difficult personality type, I hope you can see how the goals and the strategies are based on the intent of the person to meet their needs. While these strategies will not always result in a conflict free environment, and who would want that, they do provide some guidance for creating a better chance for a productive interaction, relationship, and outcome.

Since many of these situations lead to conflict, something I find many individuals would like to avoid, in the next post I will begin exploring conflict and how we can use conflict to help us be more effective in our work and lives.

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears on the other person and your mind on the goal and strategy.