Difficult people have always been a part of our circles of business or in venues meant to encourage connection through social conversation. Learning to spot and then neutralize that difficult person who’ll block your goal is helpful for the confident or novice conversationalist alike.
You may even BE that difficult chat partner. Here are some tips to get around the others, and maybe over yourself. They were first published in my column, “Communication Culture” for “The Afro News” in March 2012
Knowing WHAT the purpose of your conversation is to be and preparing to present yourself appropriately, will lessen the power such a person has over you. They will not spoil your conversation’s potential to:
- Share stories
- Make new friends
- Establish connections
- Ask questions for information
- Clear up a misunderstanding
- Let people know of our services or products
- Enjoy, relax and have fun in an easy and free way to visit
Conversation Super Snipes and Energy Sappers
Conversation saboteurs commonly fall into categories as predictable as A, B, C, and D. Let’s look at some legendary conversation killers:
A- is for the Aggressive type who will be pushy and try to pressure or intimidate you. They may use threats such as, “Oh, you’ll be sorry that you said/thought/acted on that.” If they can’t win by their tactics of superiority and pushiness, they may sink to criticizing you on personal points. What to do?
Stand your ground.
Ask them why they feel so strongly about an opinion they’ve spouted.
Be assertive and take your turn to talk.
Don’t let them interrupt and you will take back the power they’ve claimed through their imbalanced *behaviour to you or the group.
*You’ll see that in each case, countering the difficult behaviour with the opposite often balances the situation.
B- is for the Best in Class type who will take an expert stance and spew statistics and methods as if you were empty-headed, until you drown in details.
Review their points.
Ask questions that follow-up on some of their points rather than letting them advise, endlessly.
Get them to commit to a worst case scenario solution-not just a theoretical lecture. You may stop them in their talking ‘tracks.’
C- is for the Conversation Assassin who will elevate their status at your expense by using sarcasm, innuendo and humor to cut into your communications in conversations. They are the bullies of banter and often don’t contribute, but like to entertain and complain.
Ask directly for their opinion or to explain their complaint. “Tell us what you don’t like about the…. action/topic/decision etc…that you don’t like?”
When you force them to be the speaker, their power dematerializes as quickly as a movie vampire vanishes in bright sunlight.
D -is for Doomster, a type who will only see the risk, will deflate and de-motivate any person or idea.
This type of person was the most difficult for me to balance when I depended so much in the first years of my collaborative energy and creativity based consulting and content writing work.
It’s best not to argue with these unhappy campers of the conversations at business networking events or even family gatherings.
- Acknowledge their opinion and refuse to argue.
- Ask what they would do in your place and listen.
- Announce you’re going to take the risk and that you have it covered!
Do you see your own habits or personality in just these simple four types? If you take a breath and a moment to calm yourself, you may clearly see that those annoying or aggressive people are behaving that way because they are in need of something. In another column we’ll talk about how to ‘read’ people and their behaviour.
Your VIP: Very Important Preparedness Point: You can avoid personality pitfalls by remembering that a conversation exists on ‘give and take’. You’ll get the most of out it if you understand what the other person wants from the conversation; you can then be clear about your role as a partner in the conversation.
Sometimes it’s hard to declare right at the outset what you want, and many times there are multiple purposes. You’ll notice, however, that our ‘what to do’ solutions balance behaviours and cut through talk that is boring or uncomfortable.
UPCOMING: Clean up some of the questions that have come up in English Conversation practice sessions with my peeps.
(Oh, which difficult person do you encounter most often? Which one is likely to stop you in your tracks, for a bit? TELL US i n the comment area)