Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People
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Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People

Renee Evenson

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eBook - ePub

Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People

Renee Evenson

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About This Book

How to Manage Work Relationships in a Constructive Way that Leads to Success.

Learning how to maintain strong, harmonious work relationships is essential. Unfortunately, at some point in your career, you'll have to work with people whose personalities or habits make every interaction with them a trial.

Communications expert Renee Evenson has written the definitive phrasebook on how to confront the situations that can arise when dealing with difficult personalities and bring about a positive outcome. Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People is packed with practical and easy-to-use tactics such as:

  • 325 powerful phrases to communicate effectively, as well as powerful actions to take in support of those phrases.
  • 30 common personality traits, behaviors, and workplace scenarios along with the phrases that work best with each.
  • Nonverbal communication actions to back up your words.
  • Sample dialogues that demonstrate how phrasing improves interactions.
  • A five-step process for moving from conflict to resolution.
  • "Why This Works" sections that provide detailed explanations.

Often, an employee who can interact well with others and feels comfortable handling conflict will be promoted over an employee who possesses greater job or technical knowledge. From egotistical bosses to meeting monopolizers, you'll learn how to develop the skills to handle any type of conflict with anyone.

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Powerful Phrases + Actions = Successful Work Relationships
Communicating Powerful Phrases
Trying to get along with coworkers and bosses can be difficult at best. However, since you probably spend more of your waking hours at work than you do at home, it makes good business sense to get along with everyone. But when you're forced to interact all day with people who, let's face it, may not be people you'd choose to be with, they can test your mettle, tick you off, and sour your attitude.
The bottom line is that no matter how well you get along with people, you aren't going to get along with everyone all the time. Whenever people spend a lot of time together, conflicts are going to arise. But, in work situations, the conflicts can be particularly tough to handle. It's hard to maintain your composure and self-control when a coworker's done something that's irritated you, but that's just what you need to do.
Employees who are able to stay calm and approach conflict in a self-controlled, thoughtful manner are viewed more positively by coworkers and bosses. When you take the time to think before speaking, plan the best approach to handle the problem, and communicate in a constructive manner, your coworkers and bosses are more likely to listen and respond considerately to you.
If you're uncomfortable facing conflict, you're not alone. Most people feel uncomfortable when dealing with these situations and hope the problem will just go away. The bad news is that ignoring conflict will only aggravate the problem, often to the point where even a minor problem becomes unmanageable. It's like the straw that breaks the camel's back! If left unresolved, conflict can make you disgruntled and bitter; it can cause work relationships to breakdown completely; and it can spill over into and negatively affect your interactions with customers, vendors, and other business contacts. And, in the worst-case scenario, unresolved conflicts at work may even affect your personal relationships.
So what happens when the people you work with—and for—aren't easy to get along with? What do you do when your coworkers won't assume responsibility for their actions, like to gossip, take credit for your work, talk too loudly, or bully others? What do you do when your boss piles on the work, berates you in front of coworkers, plays favorites, or possesses zero percent job knowledge? And what happens when it isn't your coworkers or boss who cause the problem? What do you do when you're the cause of the situation? You may inadvertently say or do something and realize later that it may have been upsetting to the other person. Or, you may not even realize your blunder until the other person confronts you about it. Knowing how to quickly recover and resolve conflict when you're the cause enables you to keep your work relationships constructive and productive.
When you arm yourself with the skills to begin a positive dialogue when faced with conflict; to communicate assertively, confidently, and constructively to uncover the cause of the problem; and to work toward a solution that's agreeable to everyone, you'll gain the cooperation and respect of your coworkers and upper management. Further, you'll be seen as an employee who's committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
This chapter focuses on the basics of communicating when facing conflict: the powerful phrases you'll use when confronting and discussing a problem with a coworker or boss. These phrases even work when you have a disagreement with a friend or family member!
Knowing the right phrases to use to communicate may make all the difference between effectively resolving conflict and furthering an already difficult situation. Learning how to incorporate powerful phrases into your vocabulary is the first step to help you resolve disharmony at work.

Resolving Conflict: The Wrong Way

During a staff meeting, Kate was in the middle of her presentation when Emma, one of her coworkers, interrupted and disagreed with what she was saying. As a result, Kate lost her concentration and confidence and found it difficult to regroup and get back on track. Kate became upset and angry, especially since Emma had interrupted her in a previous meeting.
Kate's been stewing about it since the meeting. Therefore, when she saw Emma in the hallway, she blurted out: “You know, you always interrupt me during my presentations. Yesterday you did it again! You jumped in before I finished and started disagreeing with me. It really bugs me every time you do that.”
“I don't always interrupt you,” Emma snapped. “And, maybe if you said something that made sense, I wouldn't need to disagree with you.”
“Well, next time keep your thoughts to yourself until I'm done talking, okay?” Kate responded.
“Who do you think you are?” Emma countered. “I have a right to my opinion and if you're talking nonsense, I'm going to speak up.” Emma turned and huffed off, leaving Kate fuming.

Why This Doesn't Work

This conversation wasn't going to end well from the moment Kate accused Emma of always interrupting her. Emma immediately went on the defensive, the conversation heated up, and the interaction went quickly downhill. Both women spoke angrily, and there was no way to transform their banter into a constructive dialogue. When Emma stomped away and left Kate incensed, the problem wasn't resolved and, more importantly, their relationship suffered. Kate did get her point across about how the interruptions bugged her, and Emma may be mindful not to interrupt her in the future, but it's likely that these coworkers will have a difficult time getting along and working together.
Something to Think About
When confronting someone, refrain from using the words always or never. When you say to someone: “You always…” or “You never…,” the other person is going to focus more on that one word than on the point you're trying to make and is likely to become instantly defensive, as Emma did. Rarely is anything always or never.

Begin with “I” Phrases

The number one rule when resolving conflict is never to open a conversation with the word you. Doing so may result in anger, yelling, hurling accusations back and forth, or someone stomping off. The you word is going to immediately put the other person on the defensive. Think about it. Has anyone said something like this to you: “You talk too much! No one else can get a word in” or “You never take responsibility for your mistakes.” Your likely response is to defend yourself and fight back. “No, I don't! Bob talks just as much, if not more, than I do.” or “Yes I do. And what about you? I'm always fixing your errors.” This is definitely not the way to begin a conversation when you're trying to resolve a problem.
When you're having an issue with another person and decide to discuss it with him or her, it's difficult to have a productive conversation when you lead off with an accusatory statement or one that sounds as though you're blaming the person for the problem. When you confront someone who's done something that bugs you, keep the focus on “I” rather than on “you.” Think about how the person's behavior made you feel. Open the conversation with an “I” statement describing how the event affected you, and you'll come across in a more constructive manner. After all: “I'm” the one with the problem. “You” may not even know that what you're doing that bugs me.

Sample “I” Phrases

You don't want your opening statement to sound like an attack the other person's character, so always begin with an “I” phrase:
  • “I was hurt when you said I make too many mistakes.”
  • “I became upset when you took credit for my work.”
  • “I felt betrayed when I heard that you talked behind my back.”
  • “I became confused and lost focus when you interrupted me during my sales presentation.”
  • “I was surprised when you jumped in before I had time to finish.”
  • “I get frustrated every time you talk so loudly that I can't hear my customers.”
Something to Think About
If you don't know how to launch into your conversation, try prefacing your “I” phrase by saying something like: “I have something I need to talk to you about” or “I have something I need to get off my chest” or “Something happened that's been bothering me.”

Incorporating “I” Phrases

Here's a sample of how Kate could have opened the conversation using an “I” phrase:
“I have something I want to talk to you about. Yesterday during our meeting, I became upset when I was in the middle of my presentation and you disagreed with what I was saying. That really threw me off track for the rest of my presentation.”
Had Kate begun her conversation with Emma in this manner, the dialogue would have headed in a different direction. Kate stated what happened and painted the picture of how it affected her presentation. Emma is likely to focus on Kate's feelings and doing so will lessen the need to defend herself. After listening to Kate, Emma would have either understood where her coworker was coming from…or not. Either way, Kate would have taken a positive first step to discussing and effectively resolving the conflict.
Emma may have responded: “Gee, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that.”
Or, she may have said: “I didn't agree with what you were saying and felt it was important to voice my opinion before you went further.”
The first scenario will likely resolve itself when adding phrases of understanding and resolution (as you'll learn in the following sections). Emma appreciated how Kate felt, took responsibility, apologized, and will be more conscious not to interrupt her in the future.
In the second scenario, Emma heard how Kate felt but failed to take responsibility for her actions. In this case, Kate will need to continue her discussion to effectively resolve the conflict; otherwise, Emma is likely to do it again and Kate is likely to become upset again.

Phrases of Understanding

Opening your conversation with “I” phrases keeps the focus on how the other person's actions made you feel. After listening to that person's response, it's important to let the person know you understand that he or she may view the situation differently. By doing this, you demonstrate that you're willing to listen to the other perspective before drawing your conclusion or assigning blame.
When you show others you understand they may have a different viewpoint, you open the door to having a productive conversation. Conveying understanding is also a great way to build a rapport. You and the other person may be able to find common ground, and it may also encourage the other person to look at the problem from your vantage point. After listening to you, he or she may respond, “You know, now that I'm thinking about it, I wouldn't like that done to me either.”
In addition, offering a phrase of understanding allows you to step into the other person's shoes for a moment. Let's say that a coworker has been short tempered with you. It's been bugging you because you can't think of anything you did to cause the person to treat you this way, so you offered an “I” phrase and your coworker said he was sorry. Then you offered a phrase of understanding such as: “I realize you didn't do that on purpose, but it made me wonder if I said or did something that bothered you.” Saying this encourages your coworker to give you more information: “No, it's not you. My mother had a pretty serious operation and since she was released from the hospital I've been staying with her. I'm beyond exhausted and running on empty.” You have an aha moment. In this scenario, offering a phrase of understanding and walking in your coworker's shoes put everything in perspective.

Sample Phrases of Understanding

You can follow up an “I” phrase with a phrase of understanding in situations in which the other person didn't take responsibility for his or her actions or doesn't seem to understand your feelings.
  • “I realize that you didn't do it on purpose.”
  • “I understand that you didn't mean it to sound that way.”
  • “I'm sure you were just excited when you started talking.”
  • “I'm certain you didn't mean to take credit for my idea.”
  • “I know you well enough to know that you wouldn't knowingly do that to me.”
You can also use a phrase of understanding when you have an aha moment. Incorporating a phrase of understanding at that point will productively move the conversation along.
  • “Now I see where you're coming from.”
  • “I understand the situation from your viewpoint now.”
  • “I can see why you didn't think that would bother me.”
  • “I'm glad you gave me the additional information. I realize why you did that.”

Incorporating Phrases of Understanding

After Emma apologized in the first scenario, Kate offered a phrase of understanding: “I figured you didn't know that would be upsetting to me.” Both women have a better appreciation of the situation, and it's not likely to happen again.
But in the second scenario, when Emma didn't take responsibility, Kate said: “Look, I realize that you wouldn't do that on purpose to upset me.” The ball is in Emma's court now. She responded: “Of course I didn't do it to upset you. I didn't know if I'd have the opportunity to voice my opinion if I didn't speak up right away.” They now have a constructive dialogue going.

Phrases of Apology

Saying I'm sorry doesn't necessarily mean saying you're wrong. Saying I'm sorry means you're the one who's taking responsibility for resolving the conflict and mending the relationship. You might offer an apology to explain your state of mind, how you feel about what happened, or why you felt the need to bring up the issue.
Offering a phrase of apology can go a long way in opening the lines of communication and productively moving the dialogue along. A sincere apology holds a great deal of power. It can diffuse anger, lessen pride, and soothe hurt feelings. You won't always need to...

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