Ever had a boss who freaks out, yells and throws things? Or maybe you’ve worked with someone who does nothing but constantly stare you down and grumbles under their breath how much they hate you. Or maybe you have an employee who tries to ruin everything you do so you’ll be fired. Ever hate your job because of someone else?
Unfortunately, you are dealing with an irrational person…and unless you handle them the right way…the situation will only get worse. Let’s look at the three wrong ways of dealing with these kinds of people then look at seven right ways.
3 wrong ways to deal with an irrational person
Irrational people try to manipulate you by doing unpredictable things. They might throw things, yell, stomp off or spread hateful rumors. They are trying to unsettle you and control you. Why they do this isn't important—how you handle it is.
- The first way of dealing with an irrational person is simply to fight back. You either scream or yell back at them or stare them down or dismiss them…you may even feel like kicking or punching them. You might even quit your job when you’ve “had enough.” This is irrational, and will only lead to further trouble.
- The second way of dealing with irrational people is simply to freeze. When someone yells, you lower your head and wait for them to finish. When they’re done, you go back to work, praying that never happens again. But it will.
- The third way of dealing with difficult people is to run away. When a co-worker corners you and calls you stupid you turn and hide. Or you’ll run and tell your supervisor. But you never deal with it and it only gets worse.
Are you guilty of dealing with difficult people in any of these three ways? All of them are irrational and wrong. Here’s a healthy way to do it that keeps your sanity and hopefully improves your circumstances at work.
7 right ways to deal with irrational people
Let’s pretend that you are in a meeting and someone attacks you. What should you do? Your first step is to acknowledge the attack and ask if you can talk after the meeting. That way you can demonstrate your leadership skills by resisting the temptation to attack back.
This is also a useful way to see how serious the person is in following up. Sometimes they won’t. But let’s say they do circle back around to your desk or schedule a meeting to talk. The good thing is they will probably be calmer.
But if they are not calm and resume their abusive, irrational behavior, here’s what you need to do:
1. Ask the person why he or she is so upset. This takes the burden off of you to respond and puts it back on the attacker. This approach also shows the attacker that you are not interested in arguing but talking things out. You want to figure out a good conclusion, but not by yelling.
2. Listen to what the attacker has to say. This will be hard to do because your instinct will be to respond or defend yourself. Don’t do it. Just keep your mouth shut, nod and take mental notes.
3. Acknowledge the complaint. When they are finished, try and repeat back to them what you think you heard them say. This will help make sure you understand what they are truly upset about and will show them that you are trying to understand them first before making your own case.
4. Accept part of the blame. Find something about the complaint that you can agree with. “You’re right, I messed up. I should have checked the code one more time before I sent it off to the client.” Make sure that this is true, though. Don’t confess to something you didn’t do. And to be honest, even if we think we are absolutely in the right, we can always find ways to improve something we’ve done.
5. Correct generalizations. If you are dealing with someone who insists on calling you stupid, a failure or screw up, ask them “In what way did I fail? In what way am I a screw up?” Get them to state something specific so you actually have something to work with.
6. Ask for constructive criticism. Agree with a part of the complaint and then ask them to give you constructive feedback. “What can I do to avoid making that mistake again?”
7. Resist the urge to win the argument. Your goal is to reach a mutual level of understanding and an outcome you can both agree with. This is not about you defending your turf or protecting your reputation. It’s about gaining control of your work life.
There are several benefits to this approach. One, it helps you gain control over a situation that you might feel is out of your control.
Second, dealing with irrational people without losing control usually leads to a sense of confidence and power that probably gives you a renewed satisfaction with your job.
Third, it shows the attacker that you are not somebody to push over. You may even gain the respect of this person through a rational conversation about the issue that upset them, reducing the chances it will happen again.
How do you deal with irrational people without losing control?