Book review: Dealing with difficult people-Dr. Rick Brinkman & Dr. Rick Kirschner


Disclaimer: All the copyrights belong to the respective author/s of the book. The purpose of the book summary and review is to promote the book and share some of the great points from the work.

Cool Bluez Rating (7/10)

This book highlights the characteristics of people who are difficult to handle and understand, explains the reason behind their apparently illogical behavior and above of all tells how to manage and deal with such type of people.

Selected points from the book:

1. Doing nothing is dangerous because of building up frustration in encounters with difficult people. Likewise complaining to people who can do nothing tends to lower morale and productivity, while postponing effective action.

2. Not all situations are resolvable and some are just not worth resolving.

3. The focus of attention in any situation can be primarily on the task at hand -a task focus or primarily on relationships-a people focus. Combining them together; a person can focus on people aggressively (e.g.. belligerence), assertively (e.g. involvement), or passively (e.g. submission) or on a task aggressively (e.g. bold determination), assertively (e.g. involvement), or passively (e.g. withdrawal).

4. Four general intents that determine how people will react in any situation: Get the task done, get the task right, get along with people, get appreciation from people. When these intents become thwarted or frustrated, trouble arises. Behaviors can be pushed to the extreme.

5. When you need to get it done, you focus on the task at hand. And when you really need to get it done, you speed things up, focus on action, and assert yourself. You may even become careless and aggressive, leaping before you look or speaking without thinking. The people around you become peripheral. When this attempt to get things done is frustrated, it can distort people’s perceptions of a given situation. Suddenly, others appear to be wasting time, going off on tangents, or just plain taking too long. The intent increases in intensity and the subsequent behavior becomes more controlling.

6. The tank: Get things done. Tank is unable to slow down and may push you around or run right over you in the process. The tank has no inhibitions about ripping you apart personally, yet it’s nothing personal. You just happened to get in the way. For dealing with them, either wait till the attack is over or start interrupting them by calling their name repeatedly while keeping your voice almost 75% of their voice volume. After you have interrupted them, try to make them believe that both of you are on same ground by just saying soft two or three lines as their attention span is very short. If they do not listen to you still, you can say ‘when you’re ready to talk to me with respect, I’ willing to hear what you have to say’.
The Sniper: If things aren’t getting done to his/her satisfaction, sniper uses controlling through embarrassment and humiliation as most people fear public embarrassment. For snipers, bring them out of their hiding. When dealing with them, suggest them alternative behaviors for future interaction making them believe that you prefer an open and friendly communication next time. Do not react strongly to their actions as it will encourage them, try having the attitude of amused curiosity. Try not to take it personally on yourself rather focus on the sniper.

The grenade: They feel that they don’t get any appreciation or respect from anyone. If they are in bad mood, it would help to lower your voice volume and intensity, give sufficient time to them to settle down and analyze what makes them furious. Try to avoid those triggering points. By only giving them effective listening, you can cool them down.

The Know it all: They control people by finding flaws and weaknesses in other people’s point of view. By giving them a feel that you recognize them as expert and are willing to learn from them, they do not take you as threat and like to give you instructions rather than obstructions. Be careful in not trying to prove yourself as know it all in front of them. These people have low tolerance for correction and contradiction.

The think they know it all: They are all time busy in exaggeration of situations. If you argue with them, they will turn their volume up and refuse to back down until you look as foolish as they do. For the think they know it all type, do not embarrass them rather give them a way out to minimize the chance of them going to defensive. The think they know it all type are not as attached to their ideas as know it all and when given an easy way out to get along with you, they would offer synergism.

7. Behaviors are sometimes driven by the intent to get it done and it isn’t necessarily bad but in fact may be needed. The intent to get things done may cause people to focus only on task, to accelerate or become assertive, careless, aggressive and treat others as peripheral.

8. The whiner: Whiners think they cannot do anything to create any change in their situations. Their focus is only on problems they can use as evidence for their massive generalization. This serves to drive other people crazy and the deterioting situation provokes further whining. Don’t agree or disagree with them as agreeing will encourage them and disagreeing will cause them to repeat their problem list. Shift their attention towards solution seeking and help them meet people and figure out problems they are having with.

9. The No person: They believe what is wrong can never be set right. Try to move their attention away from fault finding towards problem solving. Do not attempt to make them believe that things are not as bad as they are believing them to be, at first place, allow them to expel their negativities. These negativities may contain true facts as well and by analyzing those thoughts, they can contribute better in making more successful strategies. Do not try to rush them, give them time to think and they will get along once they are ready. Appreciate them when they bring negative points by saying that they these can be solved well.

10. The nothing person: When things don’t go their way, they become frustrated and withdraw themselves completely. Since they don’t have anything nice to say, they prefer not saying anything at all, a strategy they use to avoid conflict, to prevent hurting anyone. As they cannot speak authentically and honestly, they do not really get along with anyone. To deal with them, use humor and fun strategy. If still you see no response, put yourself in their shoes and start thinking over the course of events that might be running in their mind. Start talking out loud, rattling off possibilities whether they seem plausible or far out. If you can hit on or near the reason for their silence, they will start talking. If you don’t come close, they will figure that you don’t have a clue and will feel compelled to tell you what’s going on in their world. These people try to avoid conflict and disapproval, if you also get angry then you push them deeper into their nothingness.

11. The yes person: They try to please everyone, will agree to every request without considering the consequences. Before long, the Yes person has over promised and undelivered to the extent that it annoys people whom he wanted to please and get along. If promises are kept even, the Yes person’s life is no longer his own as all the choices made are around people’s demands. It causes anxiety and much resentment in yes person and can even lead to unconscious acts of sabotage.
These have strong people focus and weak task focus, extremely disorganized, always over-committing themselves in order to please others by running and ruining their lives based on other people’s desire. To deal with them, help them learn task management. They lack organizational skills and would not do good without help.

12. The may be person: They avoid decisions as the wrong choice might upset someone and then who would be blamed? The better solution they think is to put decision off, until someone else makes the decision or decision makes itself. Such behavior locks the May be person out of meaningful relationships with others. Most decisions for them come when it’s too late to choose and the decision just happens itself. To deal with them, list all the pluses and minuses of each other possibilities will help them make strongest choice easy. Avoid irritation, impatience or anger as it will simply make the decision more difficult.

13. Biasing your actions and your self-esteem on your perceptions of how others see you is usually counterproductive.

14. When people want to get things done and think that it’s not happening, their behavior becomes controlling, they try to take over and push ahead. When people want to get things right and feel that things are going in wrong direction, their behavior turns more perfectionist and try to find flaws and errors in everything. People who try to get along but do not succeed and fear that they may be left out turn their behavior as approval seeking by starting to sacrifice their personal needs to please others. For appreciation wanting people who are not getting it, they make their behavior more attention seeking.

15. Reducing differences and finding common ground with difficult and hard people builds successful communication. No one cooperates with people who are against them.

16. Effective listening strategies: The first step in good listening is blending. Instead of distracting a difficult person with puzzled looks, interruptions or statements of disagreements, help him/her to fully express the thoughts and feelings in mind. You can give careful expression of understanding by nodding your head in agreement, making sounds of understanding and using body posture of attentive listening. If the person starts repeating already what has been said, repeat back some of the actual spoken words by the person. Next, ask some open ended questions to analyze why this person is being difficult. Lastly summarize the important points and confirm if the difficult person feels satisfied if his/her point of views have been listened and understood properly.

17. Communication strategies with difficult people : When dealing with people who want to get things done, use brief and to the point communication methods. People who want to get things rightly done, learn to pay attention to details in the communication. For people who want to get along, show your interest in the communication as well as in the person. For appreciation wanting people, recognize their contributions with words of enthusiasm.

18. Effective speaking strategies: Telling people the reason of sharing things at first place will help them put attention where you want them to. If you want to interrupt a difficult person to bring their attention towards you, do it by saying their name again and again till you win their attention. If the problematic person is behaving in negative manner, start saying ‘that’s not like you’, ‘you are capable of…’ and then describe how you want the person to be as if he or she already were. It is because if you tell people that you have high expectations of them they would try to come up to your expectations and vice versa.

19. Dealing with criticism: If you tend to get defensive to criticism, things would get worst. The best way is to say ‘thanks for the feedback’ and move ahead.

20. Value of attention: Give the people due credit. Praise them. For some people, this attention will be all that can get the problematic behavior to subside.

The page is a part of Cool Bluez (2011)