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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Teamwork—Dealing with Difficult People

Life is full of challenges, but few are as difficult as having to work closely with people whose behaviour exceeds what you consider acceptable. Since these people could impact your worklife significantly, here are some ideas that can help:

  1. In general, follow the philosophy of the Serenity Prayer. The prayer goes like this:

    God grant me the serenity to accept the
    things I cannot change
    The courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Translated, this philosophy suggests that you should accept people for what they are, since you cannot change their personalities. However, you can change some things. You can:

    • let difficult people know how their actions affect you;

    • avoid them;

    • ignore them;

    • ask them to stop doing things that impact you without commenting on their personalities or attitudes;

    • let them know when they have done something that pleases you;

    • act as a model for how you want them to behave.

  2. In meetings you can:

    • Prevent difficult people from dominating by asking the facilitator if there are other opinions.

    • Offer to write all ideas on the flip chart. This will demonstrate that there are a variety of ideas, each of which is equally valid.

    • Ask them to substantiate their opinions with facts. Say, "Could you give some examples of when that happened?" or "How many times has that happened?"

    • Counter their exaggerations with data and evidence of your own.

    • Let them know that their opinions are held by the minority of team members by canvassing other opinions. Then say, "Gee, I respect your opinion, but it seems that you are the only one with that opinion."

    • Ask that frivolous and unrelated ideas be dealt with later or off-line.

    • Ask for examples of the kind of issues brought up, so as to expose that the statement is an opinion and not a fact.

    • Be assertive. If you have a strong opinion that is different, speak slowly and deliberately, raising your voice to emphasize key points. Also, lean forward and maintain eye contact to demonstrate confidence in your opinion.

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