Going From Difficult to Reasonable

Posted: 2/12/2015

As with any relationship in life, we all hope for harmony but, inevitably, we all will experience our share of "difficult" people. Some may remember their first encounter with that "other kid" at preschool who would always take the toy we were playing with. Others can relate to that later in life, when dealing with a co-worker that is disruptive during meetings with comments and complaints. Truth is, differences are everywhere and will make us see other people as "difficult" at times. But how difficult does it actually have to be?

 Serving on a Board of Directors or committee for an HOA can be challenging sometimes, and dealing with different personalities is a constant part of the landscape. However, there are issues to consider, whether we are the recipient or even the cause of this negativity. There are some fundamental techniques in dealing with these challenging personalities, whether you encounter them at an HOA meeting or just walking around the neighborhood. Always try to understand where the frustration is coming from and maintain realistic expectations. 

 There are a few strategies you can try for getting along with difficult people:

  1. Listen for understanding. It may seem easy to tune out a rant or speech, but listening to them patiently will allow you to understand what motivates the person to be so angry.
  2. Demonstrate empathy - understand the other person's feelings and reasons to be acting that way
  3. Control your emotions - You can be perceived as difficult as well as the other person
  4. Build on agreement - find a connective point that you can work with
  5. Be cautious when using "why" questions. These can sound accusatory if you don't manage your tone.
  6. Stay focused on the issue. It is easy to get off track but this only wastes time and makes the situation even harder.
  7. Stay away from personal attacks. This is like the bottom of the barrel when dealing with a difficult person, so even if you are the recipient of the attack, don't go there.

People are important, even the ones we consider "difficult" and we have a choice every day whether to have a positive or negative effect on them. Even more important, we may sometimes forget that, as a board member or community volunteer, we might be the difficult ones based on how we choose to react to challenging people. Can we overlook our own need to be right and accept constructive criticism? Granted, some strategies are easier said then done. However, practice the tips above and focus on the goal of converting that difficult person into a reasonable and happy one.