“If you want plenty of experience in dealing with difficult people, then have kids.” — Bo Bennett
What if you had a playbook for dealing with the types of people you can’t stand?
What if there was a way to turn your enemies into allies?
What if you could find ways to deal with your own behavior that you can’t stand?
In Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner identify 10 specific behavior patterns that people resort to when they feel threatened, don’t get what they want, or face undesirable circumstances along with prescriptive guidance on how to deal with them.
The 10 Most Unwanted List
Brinkman and Kirschner identify 10 difficult behaviors that represent normal people at their worst:
- Grenade Person
- Yes Person
- Maybe Person
- Nothing Person
- No Person
The Lens of Human Understanding
The Lens of Human Understanding is a simple way to look at behaviors. For example, does somebody express a task-focus or a people-focus? Are they aggressive or passive?
Here’s a visual example showing how focus and assertiveness fit together:
The Four Intents
As a framework for understanding negative behavior, Brinkman and Kirschner identify four intents that can lead to conflict:
- Get the task done.
- Get the task right.
- Get along with people.
- Get appreciation from people.
By learning each of the 10 types of difficult people, you can recognize behavior patterns in yourself and others, and respond better by knowing what’s behind the behavior.
Everybody is Somebody’s Difficult Person
Difficult people are all relative (not to be confused with difficult relatives, which is a whole other book.)
Brinkman and Kirschner write:
“There exist varying degrees of knowledge and ignorance in your repertoire of communication skills, with their consequent interpersonal strengths and weaknesses.
As a result, you may have no trouble at all dealing with that overly or non emotional person who no one else can stand.
You may have more difficulty with people who whine and are negative, or you may find dealing with aggressive people to be the most challenging.
Passive people may frustrate you, or you may have a low tolerance for braggarts and blowhards.
Likewise, you probably frustrate several people yourself, because everybody is somebody’s difficult person at least some of the time.”
Here are my key takeaways:
- People aren’t their behavior. It’s not the person, it’s the behavior. They can change. People are a spectrum of possibilities.
- People demonstrate patterns of behavior. There are patterns you can identify that help you anticipate, interact, and react more effectively.
- People vs. task focus. One important continuum that explains why people do what they do is whether they have a task focus or a people focus. For instance, do they care more about the work or the team that’s doing the work?
- Passive vs. aggressive tendencies. Another important continuum that explains why people do what they do is their level of assertiveness. Some people demonstrate more passive tendencies, while others demonstrate more aggressive tendencies.
- Balance is the key. At the end of the day, it’s demonstrating balance among the forces that helps keep behavior in check.
In my opinion, improving communication is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your effectiveness.
Knowing how to deal with the top negative behaviors is a great way to boost your ability to get results and improve the quality of your life.
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