I was standing in line at a store and was watching a situation unfold that always amazes me when it comes up. Difficult, critical people.
At a postal store, an elderly associate was doing the best she could but was very nervous because there was a rush on customers just then, when a customer behind me started huffing and puffing. And I thought… here we go. Sure enough, they just had to say something. “Are YOU the only one here?”, “Can’t YOU get someone else, you’re going too slow?” Then to me so everyone could hear… “They need someone younger doing this.”
By now, she was a nervous wreck and my heart went out to her.
Of course, my leader, coaching and control-freak self kicked in and I said, “She is doing the best she can. If you are in a hurry, you may want to go to another store.”
I hung around until the line was down and the difficult person gone to give her a few tips for “Dealing with Difficult People”:
- Don’t take it personally. It is never about you!
- Smile and silence is a very powerful tool. (don’t say what you really want to say)
- Take a deep breath and internally address your discomfort. (Tell yourself you are ok)
- Elevate your authority. Be firm. Your skill is what they are needing.
- Your self worth doesn’t depend on them. When they are gone, evaluate the situation and see if you can learn from it.
- Remember you can’t control other people… You can only control how you respond to them.
We aren’t taught how to deal with difficult people in school and rarely by our parents, so our responses may be something we need to practice. I am a big proponent of role-playing or practicing in the mirror how to be calm, tell yourself it’s not about you and breathe!