This is part two of how to deal with someone else’s difficult behaviour, taking some advice from professional crisis intervention teams (who work in the fields of health care, law enforcement etc). They use particular tactics to deal with difficult people and it is well worth learning these and keeping them in mind whether you are dealing with an irate boss, a customer, a family member, even a stranger.
As I said in my previous blog, looking for support with managing relationships is one of the most common reasons people come to counselling. Humans are social animals so if one or more of our relationships is going through a difficult patch, it can greatly affect how we feel. ALL our relationships are important to us at least on some level – including partners, close and not so close family members, friends and neighbours and work colleagues.
The final tips for handling difficult behaviour are as follows (and just to stress that engaging your rational brain and keeping calm is essential!):
1. Keep extra space between you and the other person
Your instinct may be to try to calm the other person down by patting their arm or touching their hand – this type of gesture might be appropriate in many other situations but if someone is already upset, avoid touch, as it might be misinterpreted.
2. Say “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” if appropriate
Both statements can go a long way toward defusing many situations. Offer to the difficult person your best guess as to what he or she is feeling, and ask for feedback. “It sounds like you’re angry right now, and I’m sorry about that.” This demonstrates a willingness to understand the difficult person’s frustration without blame or defensiveness.
3. Set limits and boundaries
While some of the above tips have encouraged listening and letting the angry person vent, you also have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”
4. Trust your instincts
If your gut is saying, this is getting out of control, be ready to do what you need to do to remain safe. Look for an exit strategy.
5. One response does not fit all
You have to remain flexible. Although these guidelines have proven effective in deescalating tough situations, every person is unique and may respond differently.
6. Debrief and discharge your own stress
After the situation is over, talk to someone about what happened. You had to put your natural reactions on hold for a while. Now is the time to discharge some of that pent up adrenaline. Go for a run. Take the dog for a walk. Don’t let the emotions stay stuck in your body.
7. Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation
You have kept your cool and steered through what has been a very challenging situation – what have you learned? What could you improve on if something similar happens again? Be sure to give yourself a big pat on the back – we often omit this part!
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
See also: Managing Anger, Difficult Behaviour 1