How to Deal With Difficult People

How Agreeably Disagree in 4 Steps
5 Ways to Foster Healthy Communication in Conflict Situations
Additional Perspectives on Dealing With Difficult Employees

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How to Manage Conflict With Another Person

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How to Agreeably Disagree in 4 Steps

© Copyright Pam Solberg-Tapper

In today’s business world, it is imperative to be able to disagree with tact and professionalism. My coaching clients find themselves in situations where they disagree with others, yet need to rely on these same people to get work done. The way you tell someone that you disagree really matters. Agreeably Disagree is a helpful technique that lets you disagree with someone without damaging the relationship.

Here are 4 Steps to Agreeably Disagree:

1. Listen

Avoid cutting people off. Never tell them they are wrong – hear them out.

2. Acknowledge the other person’s idea/opinion/point of view by saying something like:

“I hear what you are saying”

“You have some points that make sense”

“I have not thought about it that way”

“That is an interesting perspective”

“I can see why you see it that way”

“I understand why you say that”

“I hear where you are coming from”

Be aware of your body language. Your words need to be congruent with your actions. If you roll your eyes while acknowledging, they will not believe that you are earnest.

3. Pause briefly. Use silence effectively.

Do not start out with “but, however, nevertheless”. These negative filler words will negate the fact that you are trying to hear them out. They often put people on the defensive and break down the communication.

4. State your idea/opinion/point of view by starting out with something like:

“In my experience, I…”

“My understanding is different. I …”

“Have you considered…”

“What about…”

“The literature/evidence says…”

“Because of …, I think…”

“The data I collected shows…”

Be sure to include evidence, facts, examples, personal experience, or data to substantiate your viewpoint.

By using the Agreeably Disagree technique, you preserve and strengthen the relationship by showing the other person that you heard them and respect them - even when you disagree.

5 Ways to Foster Healthy Communication in Conflict Situations

© Copyright Gail Zack Anderson

We all want to approach conflict situations with clear, honest communication that leads to a productive solution everyone can feel good about. But old habits and norms sometimes block direct, open communication. Use these suggestions as a checklist to see if you are communicating in the best possible way at your organization. If you aren’t, an open discussion and agreement to use these practices might be just what is needed to foster healthy, open communication in conflict situations.

  1. Talk directly to the person you need to talk with. Don’t go around them. Don’t talk about them. Don’t email them. Talk to them face to face if possible, or on the phone if necessary.
  2. Before engaging in a discussion, stop and ask, do we have the right people in the room? If others are needed to resolve the issue or to add input, get them into the discussion right away.
  3. When you are bringing up an issue or problem, be sure to also bring ideas for a solution. Don’t just bring up issues to get them off your chest or to complain, but rather come with either a request for help or possible solutions.
  4. Seek to understand the other person, whether you or the other person is bringing the conflict to light. How do their personal energies and styles differ from yours? How are they emotionally or rationally engaging with you? What are their perspectives? What are their perceptions?
  5. Use a simple model to help unravel the situation. Be sure you focus on the goal of the interaction, the facts leading up to the situation, the possible solutions, and the decisions you will make. Decide who will do what, and when. Enlist others as needed to complete the action plan. Follow-up to see that what you agreed on happened.

Conflict in communication is universal; being human, we have different wants and needs, and we don’t always communicate perfectly. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep an open mind.

Additional Perspectives on Dealing With Difficult Employees

Influencing the Uncooperative
Dealing With Difficult People
How to Handle Difficult People
Managing Difficult People
Rise Above the Fray: Options for Dealing With Difficult People at Work
Dealing with Annoying People
24 Attacks and 24 Responses
Work911 listing of articles
Bad Boss: Learn How to Manage Your Manager
Being a Strong Leader Despite a Bad Boss
How to Disarm Combative Conversations
Angry, toxic people. Do they know it? The value of perspective.
When the Words Get in the Way: Handling Tough Employee Conversations
7 Tips to Prepare for a Challenging Discussion

Also see
Building Trust
Communications (Interpersonal)
Communications (Organizational)
Communications (Writing)
Conflict (Interpersonal)
Etiquette (Manners)
Handling Difficult People
Valuing Diversity
Negotiating
Office Politics


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