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Dealing with Difficult People Practical Strategies for Minimizing Their Disruptive Influence On Your Life A Presentation for Fairfield Medical Center. Kendall L. Stewart, M.D. May 14, 2004. These people are everywhere; you cannot avoid them entirely.

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kendall l stewart m d may 14 2004

Dealing with Difficult PeoplePractical Strategies for Minimizing Their Disruptive Influence On Your LifeA Presentation for Fairfield Medical Center

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

May 14, 2004

what s the point
These people are everywhere; you cannot avoid them entirely.

Unfortunately, they often hold positions of power.

Give them the chance, and they will make you miserable.

You can’t change them, but you can change the way you react to them.

Changing how you react to these people will improve the quality of your life.

After this presentation, you will be able to

Identify three common behaviors difficult people exhibit,

Describe three feelings these behaviors often elicit in others,

Specify three behaviors these feelings typically elicit, and

Discuss three practical ways for minimizing the disruptive impact these people have on your life.

What’s the point?
what are some of the typical behaviors that difficult people exhibit
They are insensitive and demanding.

They are aggressive and hostile.

They are vulgar and insulting.

They are hateful, arrogant and demeaning.

They are rude and uncivilized.

They are unresponsive and irresponsible.

They are dishonest and conniving.

They are uncooperative.

They are sensitive, suspicious and intent on blaming someone else.

They are stupid and ignorant and blissfully unaware of it.

What are some of the typical behaviors that difficult people exhibit?
confronted with such behavior how do we sometimes feel
Confronted with such behavior, how do we sometimes feel?
  • Angry
  • Resentful
  • Helpless
  • Hopeless
  • Worthless
  • Frightened
  • Intimidated
  • Annoyed
  • Revengeful
  • Overwhelmed
  • Hostile
  • Inferior
  • Threatened
  • Hurt
  • Insulted
  • Frustrated
  • Used
  • Hateful
  • Etc.
how might these feelings incline us to behave
How might these feelings incline us to behave?
  • Withdraw
  • Nag
  • Argue
  • Give up
  • Explain
  • Talk behind others’ backs
  • Ruminate
  • Gossip
  • Try harder to please
  • Plot revenge
  • And so on
what are some effective behavioral strategies for dealing with difficult people
Label them.*

Neutralize them.*

Understand them.

Accept them.

Inform them.

Involve them.

Ignore them.

Convert them.

Avoid them.

Expose them.

Circumvent them.

Use them.

Persuade them.

Confront them.*

Rehabilitate them.

Discourage them.

Ridicule them.

Isolate them.

Punish them.

Fire them.

What are some effective behavioral strategiesfor dealing with difficult people?
label them
Why should I?

Acknowledges they are different

Recognizes their need to be “managed,” not befriended

Initiates the management process

Minimizes your unrealistic expectations

Reminds you to become emotionally detached

Signals need to reach for suitable tools

Legitimizes others’ perceptions

Forces you to take personal responsibility

How can I?

Remain sensitive to your own emotional arousal.

Recognize the need to choke off your emotional arousal.

Imagine a sticky note labeled, “A Real Nut” attached to their foreheads.

View them as impaired (they are).

Pity them.

Concentrate on observing their behavior.

Reflect on why someone might behave so unproductively—as a distraction, not as their therapist.

neutralize them
Why should I?

Removes incendiary behavior from an emotionally flammable environment

Minimizes their desired response—fear and withdrawal

Starves their fire

Limits emotional contagion

Protects more vulnerable personalities

Minimizes workplace disruption

Takes initiative away from social miscreant

How can I?

Take notes.

Avoid eye contact.

Act sleepy and bored.

Comment on their emotional arousal.

Ask them why they are repeating themselves.

Ask them what constructive things they have tried.

Ask them what they want you to do.

Warn them, then hang up the phone.

Neutralize them.
confront them
Why should I?

Challenges others’ tolerance

Worries those who collude with misbehavers

Disrupts usual response patterns

Signals who’s in charge

Provides relief from feelings of helplessness

Gives prior victims hope

Reaffirms your commitment to organization’s stated values

Encourages others to take the same vigorous action

How can I?

Document their behavior.

Ignore suspected motives, but record behavior in descriptive detail.

Focus on patterns instead of isolated occurrences.

Line up witnesses.

Give emotions time to dissipate.

Nail down the support you need.

Confront in love and respect.

Refuse to be distracted.

Attach consequences and describe next steps.

Deliver on your promises.

Confront them.
what can we conclude
What can we conclude?
  • There are a lot of difficult people in the world.
  • They will make you miserable if you let them.
  • You can’t change them, but you can change the way you react to them.
  • Your instinctive reactions to these obnoxious people may not be the best approach.
  • There are a variety of approaches that will work better, but you will need to practice them if you want to use them successfully.

Where can we learn more?

  • Stewart, Kendall L., et. al. A Portable Mentor for Organizational Leaders, SOMCPress, 2003
  • Stewart, Kendall L., “Physician Traps: Some Practical Ways to Avoid Becoming a Miserable Doctor” A SOMCPress White Paper, SOMCPress, July 24, 2002
  • Stewart, Kendall L. et. al, “On Being Successful at SOMC: Some Practical Guidelines for New Physicians” A SOMCPress White Paper, SOMCPress, January 2001
  • Stewart, Kendall L., “Bigwigs Behaving Badly: Understanding and Coping with Notable Misbehavior” A SOMCPress White Paper, SOMCPress, March 11, 2002 (For a limited time, this White Paper can be downloaded from
  • Stewart, Kendall L., “Relationships: Building and Sustaining the Interpersonal Foundations of Organizational Success” A SOMCPress White Paper, SOMCPress, March 11, 2002

How can wecontactyou?

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Medical Director

Southern Ohio Medical Center

President & CEO

The SOMC Medical Care Foundation, Inc.

1805 27th Street

Portsmouth, Ohio 45662




Southern Ohio Medical Center

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