Question: What happens when you take someone with empathy and place them in a meeting with someone who is pitching a fit?
Answer: The person who is pitching the fit gets lucky because they have someone in the room who understands that sometimes others get upset in the workplace AND someone who can probably help them gracefully stop pitching that fit.
Let’s try another one.
Question: What happens when you take someone who knows they are tired and crabby and then you invite them to a meeting to tell them bad news?
Answer: If they are self-aware and they can self-regulate then you should be able to tell them the bad news without any extra drama. If they are simply self-aware, they know that they are tired and crabby, but because they do not self-regulate they might just lose their temper.
I am not going to tell you that people who have strongly developed emotional intelligence are never difficult. Remember this? None of us are difficult all of the time, but most of us are difficult some of the time.
I will tell you that people who have strongly developed emotional intelligence are less likely to be difficult and that they will be better equipped to deal with difficult people.
When we call another person difficult, it is generally because they are exhibiting a behavior that makes us uncomfortable. It is possible that your difficult person is a role model to someone else. Imagine that!
As you begin to understand what types of behaviors or personalities cause you conflict and why, you will begin to understand how you can best manage yourself when you are dealing with your difficult person.
Maybe you do not like loud people who need to be the center of attention. So when you have a co-worker who starts showing off and attracting attention, you become annoyed.
Perhaps when you get annoyed you become sarcastic. So you make a snide comment to them about their behavior.
Now let’s turn the situation around. The recipient of your sarcastic comment thinks, “Wow, I can’t believe she talks to me like that, what a jerk. I wonder why she is so difficult?”
What would someone else who witnessed your interaction say? Would they think you were the difficult person because they perceived your comment as spiteful? Maybe they agree with you and think the other person is a showoff. Maybe they don’t notice anything out of the ordinary or uncomfortable about the exchange between you and your difficult person.
The perception of your witness is going to depend on their outlook and what types of behaviors make them uncomfortable.
As you navigate the workplace remember that your ability to deal with difficult people ties directly to your awareness of behavior that makes you uncomfortable, your awareness of how you respond when you are uncomfortable and your ability to use the right approach with your difficult person, so that you walk away with your professional brand intact.