Dealing with difficult people – the aggressive person

Our dealing with difficult people courses are one of our popular courses as it effectively demonstrates how to neutralise problem situations in the workplace. It covers a wide range of scenarios that occur in the workplace such as; working with aggressive people, disagreeing with others, handling bullies at work, dealing with ignorant people at work and working with unreasonable people. This course will cover mediation and will show delegates how valuable managing and mediating conflict is when managing or handling difficult staff/employee(s). The dealing with difficult people at work course also provides useful information for working with a difficult boss/manager and guidance on how to deal with bullying in the workplace.

Dealing with aggressive people

The following are some techniques to help you when dealing with the aggressive or intimidating person:

1. Pick a person you deal with on a regular basis who you find intimidating.

  • Get started by choosing someone who causes you to feel mild fear.

2. Ask yourself — what does it get me feeling fear around this person?

  • Typically you will answer that the fear causes you to be more alert and careful. However the irony is that when you feel fear you are less capable of responding well to the challenges of the situation.
  • Let me give you an example. When I lived the corporate sales life a number of years ago I had a crazy boss.
  • He would scream down the phone at me, thump the desk with his fist in meetings and threaten to fire me if certain goals were not achieved. I never took this personally because he treated other people in the same way. Still I did feel fear when dealing with him.
  • What did I get by feeling fear?
  • It meant I was careful to say the right thing and to do my job to the best of my abilities to ensure he had no reason to have another go at me.
  • Nevertheless it was not an ideal situation!

3. If you cannot influence the behaviour of the intimidator change how you feel.

  • In the case of my boss I matched his behaviour to get rapport. When he shouted at me I raised my voice to speak back. When he slammed the desk I became more animated in how I talked and I used my hands more when expressing myself.
  • This pacing will help. However it is not enough you also need to change how you feel.
  • Before you start working with the following approach make sure you are feeling energetic and resourceful otherwise you could get dragged back into the fear itself.
  • Now take a recent encounter with the intimidator and run the scene in your mind as if you are watching it on TV. Pretend you are outside the event watching as a bystander.
  • Next, distort the images until the other person looks absurd. Dress the person in silly clothes or even no clothes! Change their voice until it sounds squeaky like a cartoon character. Slow down their speech until it sounds like a worn out tape. Then speed up the speech until they sound like a bumble bee.
  • Play the scene backwards, upside down or with zero gravity. Do whatever you have to until the scene is ludicrous.
  • Keep playing with the sounds and images until you are either laughing or at least smiling when you think of the intimidator.
  • At this point you have turned fear into a more resourceful emotional state. Well done!
  • When you are new to this technique you will need to run through it several times until you get the hang of it. And for difficult situations I recommend using it daily to shake off those unpleasant feelings of fear you have associated to that person.

4. Keep the benefits of the fear and not the fear itself

  • After step 2 above you know how your fear is serving you.
  • Let us say the fear gives you alertness, safety and carefulness.
  • How are you going to behave carefully around the intimidator without feeling the fear?
  • You need to write down or run through likely scenarios in your mind until you are well prepared to handle whatever is thrown at you.
  • This step is very important and you are in trouble if you skip it.
  • In my case I was mentally ready to work elsewhere, I saved up some money so that if I did get fired it would not be the end of the world and I was always careful to only promise what I knew I could deliver.
  • If I had just changed how I felt without dealing effectively with the situation I would have been in a very difficult situation.
  • Your goal ought to be to feel resourceful and to be intelligent in how you deal with difficult people.
  • Using these tips will help you. How much this information helps will depend on how much energy you put into applying this approach.
  • When I look back on my aggressive boss situation I know that I could have done even more to handle it better. So like you I am always learning.
  • The important thing is to get started and keep heading in the right direction. And take even one step each day to take you forward.

Delegates who attend our Dealing With Difficult People training courses will:

Other related courses include assertiveness skills, mediation skills, negotiation skills and communication skills for managers. Click here if you need more information regarding Dealing With Difficult People training courses or contact Total Success who will be delighted to talk to you via e-mail.

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