Proven Steps to take when Communicating

Proven Steps to take when Communicating with a Difficult Personality

Understanding negative patterns of difficult behavior helps you anticipate, engage and react in a manner that produces effective results without escalating the drama.

Your first step is to alter the way in which you perceive the difficult behaviour. Reduction of the impact of your defensive response can only occur if you choose to focus on the behaviour instead of the person causing the difficult situation. Also, when you are in defensive mode your active listening automatically switches off which in turn fuels the negative issue.

Using behaviour-based language in the workplace helps you identify problems before they become difficult situations and engages the building of trust and respect. It is also worth remembering that behaviours that you may deem difficult do not present the same challenges to someone else. Perception plays a key part in orchestrating situations so it’s important to be aware of what pushes your buttons and triggers your response.

Redefine the difficult behaviour issue as a performance problem so that you are better equipped to tackle and manage the process. Whilst personality is inherent and can’t be changed, behaviour is learned and can be altered in positive and negative ways. Learn to accept the differences between you and others, so that you no longer view situations as major challenges to overcome. Even difficult people want harmony in the workplace so aim to encourage open communication that allows you to build mutual rapport and trust.

Always address issues immediately. Communicating assertively demonstrates that you accept ownership of your feelings, whilst respecting the views of others. Keep an open mind and be prepared to listen to the views and opinions of difficult people. When you listen and show empathy and understanding you build allegiance and an opportunity for mutual learning. Your ability to use effective communication, and your knowledge of when to use one-to-one conversation, can create dramatic and immediate changes in your relationships with others.


  • Don’t take matters personally
  • Don’t respond when emotions are running high
  • Do employ active listening
  • Do discuss behaviour, not personality
  • Stay calm, assertive and open

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain

This post is an excerpt from ‘How to Deal with Difficult People – 11 Strategies for Coping with Challenging Personalities in the Workplace’ one of over 80 Management Guide titles from Benson & Company.

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