Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with Difficult People

Do's

  1. Remain calm and stable. Prepare yourself psychologically for the possibility of an emotional response, but even if it happens, remain calm and stable on the outside.
  2. Allow the person full opportunity to speak. Attempt to determine the type of problem, and interrupt only when it is for the person's benefit, never to relieve yourself of distressing feelings being caused by the other person.
  3. When indicated, ask concrete questions (e.g., "What specifically do you need from me?", "Did this happen yesterday or today?"). These should have a calming effect on the person.
  4. Deal with the immediate situation rather than the underlying causes.
  5. Have readily available resources to assist you: Contact your supervisor or a professional staff member and say "I need your expertise," contact Public Safety by dialing 9-911, etc.
  6. If the person is agitated, find a way to move the person into an area without much stimulation (e.g., contact a counselor who can take the person to another room).
  7. Set limits (e.g., "It is all right to be angry, but it is not all right to yell at me").
  8. Listen.
  9. Be aware of nonverbals.
  10. Be consistent.

Don'ts

  1. Don't try to "cheer up" the person.
  2. Don't tell him/her that his/her problems are not as bad as they seem.
  3. Don't reassure him/her unless s/he specifically requests this type of intervention (which is the exception rather than the rule).
  4. Don't attempt to solve the total problem; instead deal with the immediate problem.
  5. Don't overreact.
  6. Don't get into a power struggle.
  7. Don't make false promises.
  8. Don't fake attention.
  9. Don't use jargon, it tends to be confusing and frustrating.