Thursday, July 14, 2016

Working with Difficult People

We prefer to work with people that we like.  It is so much easier working together with people who are like us. They get us.  We think alike, we share the same values, we have similar personalities, maybe similar backgrounds.  Many times, we relate to people who are our same age, our same stage in life.  

However…  (a big sigh…)   
how do we work with difficult people?

We would much rather NOT work with difficult people.  We would prefer to stay as far away from them as we can.  We work around them.  Or, we battle with them.  Flight or Fight, Right??

Working with difficult people is kind of like playing ping pong with someone who isn’t very good.  I love ping pong and I play a lot, so I can hit the ball pretty hard over the net.  But when I play with someone who is still learning, it 
honestly… isn’t much fun.  I would prefer to play with someone who is a good player, because when I hit the ball hard to them, they return it with equal speed and power.  In the same way, it is much easier working with people who match our energy and our way of approaching life and work. 

Though we try to avoid working with difficult people at all costs, we all are faced with the reality that to achieve our goals at work, we must work with ALL people, including those that we see are difficult.

How to Work with Difficult People

Different, not Difficult
First, stop categorizing them as “difficult”, and understand that they are different.  Different from YOU.  The more different a person is from you, the more gap of understanding, of familiarity there is between you and them.  There is a greater gap between men and women, between younger and older, between black and white.  There is a huge gap between Republican Party and Democratic Party, (HUUUGGGGEEEE!!)  between outgoing personality and introverted personality.  We can perceive this gap as difficult because you do not have natural ways to connect.   You disagree in some areas, so you tend to disagree in ALL areas.  But re-classifying them from “Difficult” to simply “Different” will really reset your mind frame every time you see them.  Learn to value who they are, what they have been through in their journey.   Learn to appreciate their differences, to appreciate that they have a different approach to  their life and their work. 

Find Common Ground
With people that are like us, we naturally find common ground.  We like the same movies, the same political leader, we like to approach life the same way.  For me, personally, I am drawn to people who have a similar personality that I have - outgoing, ambitious, fast-paced, fun.  I naturally connect with people who are going in the same direction as I am.  People who are more introverted, more thoughtful and studied, even-paced and serious take more energy and intentionality for me to connect with.  However, I have learned that I NEED these type of people in my life.  I have learned to value them.  They help me measure the cost of my ambition.  They help me put systems in my life to be more productive.  They help me evaluate work and see a different perspective that helps me.

The key to working with people who you have no common ground with, is… to find some common ground.  When we see someone who is “opposite” of us, we think to ourselves “we have NOTHING IN COMMON.” But I would argue that we ALL have something in common.

Here’s how to find common ground:  ask people questions about their life until you find something that you have in common.

“where are you from""
“what is your favorite sports team?"
“What is your favorite restaurant?"
“where have you traveled?"
“what is your favorite tv show?"
“what touches your heart?"

Keep asking questions as you interact with them until you find something you have in common.  People love talking about themselves.  They feel valued when you ask them about their life.  When you finally discover the common ground - connect! 

“you are from Chicago??  My wife and I were married in Chicago!!"

See? now you have a connection! You can build on that connection…very quickly.  Once you find common ground with someone, you immediately create familiarity with them.  You immediately create a foundation of trust with them.  You will find they will begin to work with you.  They will begin to try to help you accomplish what you need.  It’s amazing!

The truth is you rarely get to choose who you work with.  You need people in order to be successful in your job.  Rather than avoid difficult people, see them as just different.  Value who they are and what they can bring to the table.  Be intentional to build common ground with them, and they will begin helping you accomplish your objectives at work.  

See people as an ASSETT
 not an ENEMY

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