How to Deal with Difficult People and Have Constructive Conflict


January 28, 2012   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Do you flee? Or, do you get flexible and learn to interact?

When we encounter these extreme personalities it can feel like they are trying to make our life miserable, but more often than not, it’s simply learning about these peoples’ tendencies and how to interact in a more tactful way. Some conflicts are unavoidable and shouldn’t be smoothed over or suppressed, though it’s learning to deal with our differences, and how to understand, resolve, and learn from these interactions that’s important.

Tips to dealing with problem people

  • Learn to recognize different personalities
    First and foremost, we must develop self-awareness about our own personality tendencies. Are you more aggressive or passive? Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

Once we know our personality tendencies we can learn to recognize other peoples’ personalities and adapt and interact in a more effective way.

  • Learn how to communicate with different personality types
    When we are dealing with different people it requires we approach them in the way they want to be treated. Some people need more detail and clarity in communication. Some people are very direct and just want the facts, and others are more focused on relationships. 

Consider how you can communicate verbally and through body language in the most effective way with these different types of people to build rapport and make them feel understood.

  • Know who triggers you and why
    When we know who we tend to have conflict with and what it is that leads us to get frustrated, we can begin to be more proactive. We can learn to deal with this person more effectively by managing our own emotions and not be the target of their drama and unrest. 
  • Learn to focus on strengths and positive qualities
    A great way to deal with people more effectively in any relationship context is to focus on their positive qualities and to help them accentuate these when you can. Give people compliments, offer them recognition, and help them to use their strengths. We can empower others instead of knocking them down, and by doing so have a more positive influence and interaction. 

Just because you apply these ideas doesn’t mean that people will always respond in a positive manner. The only person you have control is yourself, so to make sure that an unhealthy conflict doesn’t ensue work to build these traits.

Managing conflict is being there with:

    1. Availability: Accept full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, actions, values, and perceptions that you contribute to the conflict. 
  • Flexibility: Offer a willingness to make some degree of change, so that both people can move toward a joint solution. Compromise may be required. 
  • Specificity: Seek to focus the conflict of real, significant issues that point toward a practical outcome that is within the range of responsibility. Don’t get personal. 
  • Clarity: When the message intended and the impact received are nearly the same, communication is achieved. For this to happen, words, tone of voice, facial expression, posture must all be congruent with each other and context with they are said. 

Here are some signs of constructive and healthy conflict.
You’ll know you’re on the right track when the following ideas are present.
Conflict is constructive when:

  • It opens up issues of importance, resulting in their clarification.
  • Results in the solution of problems
  • Increases the involvement of individuals in issues of importance to them
  • Causes authentic communication to occur
  • Serves as a release to pent-up negative emotions
  • Helps build cohesiveness among people, and allows them to learn about each other
  • Helps individuals grow and learn to become better in the future
  • We can learn a lot about ourselves and grow as a person when we work through conflict. It can also open up new possibilities and allow us to think differently about our beliefs and expectations.

Developing patience and tact to deal with others more effectively is a skill that can be applied in many areas of life. Continuing developing your ability to connect and influence others in a positive way.

Written on 1/28/2012 by Joe Wilner. Joe Wilner is a coaching and writer who manages, where he inspires and empowers people to live a full, meaningful, and thriving life. You can also follow him on Twitter at @shakethegrind. Photo Credit: spaceamoeba

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