In this TED Talk, Jay Johnson encourages us to look ‘internally’ when dealing with difficult people. But why should we do this when we perceive that the issue is with the other person? It’s them that’s the difficult one we’ll tell ourselves! Jay continually reminds us throughout his talk, it’s our heart attack that’s on the line if we don’t. That seems a good reason doesn’t it?
There are many reasons why we consider other people to be difficult. Some reasons are well justified, but some are just perceptions from the lens through which we view them. They often share common behaviours that we’ve all seen:
- The ‘not listener’ – no matter what you say, or how you say it, the message just never gets through.
- The ‘one upper’ – that person who no matter what your story is, they always have the story that is better.
- The ‘gossiper’ – that person that knows everything about everyone and seems to be always stirring up trouble.
- The ‘curmudgeon’ – that person that is always reliving the good old days and sharing how the present just doesn’t compare to how things used to be.
These behaviours affect us in varying ways. But often they are the triggers for difficult relationships we have with people. And they can cause so many problems within a workplace or school environment. From absenteeism to turnover to poor performance, the list could go on endlessly. These can all be outcomes of us not managing our difficult relationships well.
So, if we can’t readily change other people’s behaviours, then we need to change our own to avoid that heart attack. And behavioural intelligence gives us a unique way to approach this.
Explain existing behaviours
One of the best ways to do this is by asking questions to understand the ‘why’. Generally, what we do is label and continue. And these labels include a bias which in the heat of the moment ramp up the stress levels. When we take the time to ask questions and understand the ‘why’ it is easier to predict.
Predict future behaviours
Uncertainty causes anxiety. So, the more we are able to predict what is likely to happen our anxiety and stress levels will reduce as a result.
Influence other’s behaviours
Using inclusive language is a powerful way to influence. For example, “I notice we’re having some trouble communicating” or “we should…” helps reduce any barriers that exist.
The other way to influence is through reward and recognition. Find ways to provide praise combined with inclusive language and you will show a togetherness that helps turn enemies to friends.
Control own behaviours
We need to recognise that we are all difficult to someone else. And before we have that self-realisation and understanding, we are never going to be able to adjust our own behaviours.
In the heat of the moment, taking that step back, taking a break. “I see we are both getting worked up here…why don’t we take a moment”. Being able to take a deep breath and reset, takes the brain out of flight or flight mode
The key takeaway from each of these is to separate the person from the behaviours. By doing so, dealing with difficult people may just become a whole lot easier.
Check out the full 15-minute TED talk here to get some great practical ideas to manage difficult relationships.
Want to watch even more TED Talks we have shared. Check them all out here.