How to calmly deal with difficult people.

Dealing with people who are difficult is one of the supreme challenges we all face. No one likes conflict. This may sound odd when you look around and see so much negativity these days, but I have only seen a tiny number of people who look like they enjoy conflict, and I am dubious about the reality of that.

Anyway, what do we do about it. Are there any techniques or tools that can help us manage our interactions with difficult people? I think there are.

Here are four things you can do, and they make up the acronym CALM.

C- Choose to help: What we see of difficult people is, for the most part, negative. However, just like all of us, this person has a variety of issues in their life that we can’t see. These things influence everything they do. I relate this to an iceberg where we only see 10% of the entire thing above the water.

When you consider this, their behavior is easier to relate with. We have all had those bad moments when we let all manner of challenges make us unreasonable and difficult. When we can take a deep breath and recognize this reality, it can make it easier to give people the benefit of the doubt and work kindlier with them.

The trick to making this tool useful is to repeat this key phrase to yourself, “There’s an iceberg, how can I help instead of hurt?”

A- Ask questions: Doing this accomplishes several things. One, it pushes others to use a part of their brain that is more intentional and less emotional. By making them think more rationally, you can turn down the drama.

Two, the answers you get may help you to better understand their point of view. You don’t have to agree, but more information can at least help you to see how important the issue is or why they feel so strongly.

Three, by getting more information, you can better filter out assumptions and find facts. More facts usually result in better decisions.

L- Listen to the answers: This simple act sends positive messages. There simply is no better way to let someone know they matter than by listening to them, and there is no better way to really learn what lies at the base of why the other person is acting out the way they are. Again, you don’t have to agree with their position or condone their behavior, you only need to model the respect you want them to demonstrate.

M- Mind your manners: We humans are copycats. We possess the ability to mimic the behavior of others. In fact, we often do it without even thinking. Consider how a simple yawn can create a chain reaction of yawning.

If you want others to be civil, it begins with you. When people are consumed with emotions, they often say and do things they wouldn’t normally say and do. While it may not be acceptable, it is how we are wired. By minding your manners in your language and actions, you can influence the human copying instinct. The more civil you remain, the more civil they will become.

So, what have we learned? When you find yourself dealing with difficult people, remember, be CALM. Choose to be helpful rather than hurtful, ask questions to turn down the drama, listen to learn, and mind your manners to influence more civility.

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