Tips and Techniques to Manage Difficult People

Posts Tagged ‘Assertiveness’

5 Action Ideas to Motivate Difficult People

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When was the last time you had to deal with a difficult person.

It was probably an external customer or client, but Businessman Surprisedperhaps it was an internal customer, such as a one of your staff, a colleague or even – your boss!

In business, we usually strive to provide extraordinary service to both our internal and external customers. However, in the real world, things go wrong and mistakes are made.

These “customers” will often judge your level of service based on how you respond to a mistake. Do it well and they’ll probably forgive you, and possibly even say positive things about your business, or your abilities, to other people.

The important thing to realise when dealing with an upset person, is that you must –

Deal with their feelings, then deal with their problem.

Upset customers are liable to have strong feelings when you, your product or service lets them down, and they’ll probably want to dump these feeling on you.

You don’t deal with their feelings by concentrating on solving the problem, it takes more.

Here are 5 action ideas that deal with the customers’ human needs:

1 – Don’t let them get to you

Stay out of it emotionally and concentrate on listening non-defensively and actively. People may make disparaging and emotional remarks – don’t rise to the bait.

2 – Listen – listen – listen

Look and sound like you’re listening. The other person wants to know that you care and that you’re interested in their problem.

3 – Stop saying sorry

Sorry is an overused word, everyone says it when something goes wrong and it’s lost its value.

How often have you heard – ‘Sorry ’bout that, give me the details and I’ll sort this out for you.’

Far better to say – ‘I apologise for ……’

And if you really need to use the sorry word, make sure to include it as part of a full sentence. ‘I’m sorry you haven’t received that information as promised Mr Smith.’ It’s also good practise to use the other person’s name in a difficult situation, but not overdoing it

It’s also good practice to use the other person’s name in a difficult situation, but not overdoing it

4 – Empathise

Using empathy is an effective way to deal with the person’s feelings. Empathy isn’t about agreement, only acceptance of what they is saying and feeling.

Basically the message is – ‘I understand how you feel.’

Obviously this has to be a genuine response, the other person will realise if you’re insincere and they’ll feel patronised.

Examples of empathy responses would be – ‘I can understand that you’re angry,’ or ‘I see what you mean.’

Again, these responses need to be genuine.

5 – Build rapport

Sometimes it’s useful to add another phrase to the empathy response, including yourself in the picture – ‘I can understand how you feel, I don’t like it either when I’m kept waiting.’ This has the effect of getting on the other person’s side and builds rapport.

Some customer service people get concerned with this response as they believe it’ll lead to – ‘Why don’t you do something about it then.’

The majority of people won’t respond this way if they realise that you’re a reasonable and caring person.

If they do, then continue empathising and tell the person what you’ll do about the situation. ‘I’ll report this to my manager’ or ‘I’ll do my best to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.’

Make no mistake about it; people, be they customers, staff or your boss, are primarily driven by their emotions. It’s therefore important to use human responses in any interaction particularly when they are upset or angry.

It’s therefore important to use human responses in any interaction particularly when they are upset or angry.

If people like you and feel that you care, then they’re more likely to accept what you say and forgive your mistakes.

Comment below or send me and email and give me your thoughts –

Difficult people (227x346)

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10 Ways to Motivate a Difficult Manager

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Let me ask you a simple question; does your manager motivate you? Or do you find him or her difficult to deal with? If you’re lucky then it will be the former rather than the latter.article400_man_woman_motivate-420x0

It’s not my fault

When I’m running a seminar for managers on how to motivate their staff, the comment I hear most is – ‘How can I motivate my staff when my manager doesn’t motivate me, and even makes my life difficult?’

So the next question is – what are you going to do about it?

One way to do it

One of the best ways to motivate your staff is to give them feedback on their performance.

You tell them when they do things you do like and you tell them when they do things you don’t like.

It’s exactly the same with your manager.

Now I appreciate that we’re getting into scary territory here but you’re going to have to be brave and take some action.

There’s no point in going on about your manager needing to change, because that’s unlikely to happen – unless you do something about it.

The rules for giving your manager feedback are almost the same as those for your staff.

  1. Do it ASAP

When your manager says or does something you do or don’t like, you need to say something right away.

If it’s something you do like, it’s not much use saying something weeks later – ‘Thanks for helping me with that difficult customer last week Dave.

Dave is going to have a bit of a problem remembering that situation and the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.

It also makes sense to tell Dave about something you don’t like as soon as possible.

  1. Do it in private

You really don’t want members of your team or your colleagues hearing what you say to your manager be it good or bad.

  1. Check that it’s okay to speak

Make sure that you have your manager’s full attention. There’s no point in saying what you have to say if they have something else on their mind, or they’re working on their computer. It’s also good manners and shows respect.

  1. Announce your intentions

If your manager is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through their mind when you pull up a chair or ring them on the phone – they think it’s bad news!

They think you’re about to complain about something, or you’ve done something wrong, or there’s a problem.

It’s important to tell them up front what you want to speak about.

You might say – ‘Laura, I’d just like to thank you for something you did today.’

Or if it’s something you don’t like you might say – ‘Laura, I’d just like to talk about something you said today that I’m uncomfortable about.’

  1. Tell them how YOU feel about their behaviour

This is nothing to do with anyone else. Don’t say things like – ‘The team don’t like the way you speak to us.’

Use lots of ‘I’ messages; say things like – ‘I’m unhappy with the way you told me how to do that job today. It made me felt embarrassed in front of my team members. Would you be prepared to speak to me in private in future?’

  1. Focus on one thing at a time

Don’t confuse your manager with a whole list of behaviours. If it’s things that you do like then you’re in danger of coming across as patronising. If it’s things that you don’t like, then you may come across as a whinger.

  1. Be specific

When you’re giving your manager feedback it’s important to focus on job-related behaviour and not on the personality of the individual.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable, try to focus on the manager’s behaviour in terms of how they said or did something. That’s what you’re giving feedback on, not them as a person.

Avoid ‘You’ messages. It becomes easier if you’re using ‘I’ messages and being very descriptive about what you’ve seen or heard.

You could say something like – ‘I liked the way you showed me how to lay out that report – thank you, Jeff.’  Or – ‘Jeff, I’m concerned by the way you told me how to do that report. It’s important for me to get it right, would you be prepared to spend a bit more time explaining what you require?’

  1. Include the customer and the organisation

Whenever appropriate; relate what your feedback is about, to how the customer or the business could be affected. This, of course, could be an internal or an external customer.

  1. Get input

When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to get the manager’s input.

You might say – ‘I’m unhappy with the number of tasks you’ve asked me to do this week, and I’m concerned that I may not be able to do them in the best interests of the business. However I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, and discuss how we can make efficient use of my time.’

  1. Don’t leave them low

This is particularly important after giving feedback on something you’re not happy about. This isn’t an attack on the manager; it’s about job-related behaviour.

Think about how you feel when one of your team speaks to you about something they’re unhappy about. It can leave you low and possibly stressed.

Finally – be brave

There’s still a culture in some organisations that doesn’t allow the boss to be challenged. It’s a case of – ‘The boss tells me what to do, and it’s my job to do as I’m told.’

It’s also the case that some managers don’t want to say anything to their boss for fear of being perceived as negative or a whinger.

Be brave and give your boss some positive feedback.

The occasional compliment or descriptive thank you will work wonders for your relationship.

And if the boss is doing or saying something you don’t like, give him or her some constructive feedback using the guidelines above.

If you follow these guidelines, then you’re much more likely to motivate your manager, manage any difficult situations, and achieve more positive results.

Excerpt from Loyalty Magazine

“All in all this is a really useful book that should be passed around the call centre, the sales team and even the family. After that, you should put it in a safe place for when you are having a bad day, and you need 51je1l11k3l-_uy250_a few suggestions”.


How To Manage Difficult People Audio Summation

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New Seminar – How to Manage Difficult People

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7 Things You Need to Know About Intelligence

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Now this post might be old news to you, but I am always intrigued by people who are described as “intelligent”.

When I was a kid, my parents used to talk about my brother as – ‘The brains of the family’.

That’s us in the picture on the Titanic just before it went down.

EPSON scanner image

Okay, so he did better than me at school and went on to college and obtained a degree in mixing cement, or something like that.

Yes, he’s a Quantity Surveyor with a string of letters after his name, he worked hard for it, and I’m not emotionally damaged, I don’t think!

So what’s this about “brains” and intelligence? What does it mean and why is it so valued.

I was really interested in the studies of Howard Gardener, a psychologist at Harvard University. Gardner’s Theory of multiple intelligences states that – ‘Not only do human beings have many different ways to learn and process information, but that these are independent of each other; leading to multiple intelligences as opposed to a general intelligence among correlated abilities.’ (I copied this bit from Wikipedia; I’m not intelligent enough to write this stuff!)

In 1999 Gardner listed seven intelligences:

Linguistic intelligence. This concerns language and how we use it. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence. (This might just be me, after all I’ve written four books)

Logical-mathematical intelligence. This is associated with calculation and logical reasoning. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking. Unit Chefs is an efficient tool used for calculations and most common conversions. (Not me; I haven’t a clue, I need my fingers to count on)

Musical intelligence. To do with musical appreciation as well as performing and composing music. (Does being a Michael Jackson fan count?)

Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Associated with physical skills like sport, dancing and other aspects of movement. (Yup; that’s me again. You should see me dancing)

Spatial intelligence. To do with art and design, as well as finding your way around (I’d like to claim a little bit of that)

Interpersonal intelligence. To do with interacting with people socially and sensitively. It’s concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence. (That’s me; loved by millions)

Intrapersonal intelligence. To do with understanding yourself, to appreciate your feelings, fears, motivations and abilities. (I don’t want to go there)

So the next time someone tells you about a so called intelligent person. A sk what they know about design, or the ability to deal with other people, or what musical instrument do they play, or can they fix that scary noise in your car engine?

Always remember that you have qualities and skills that other people do not have and you should be proud of these and believe in yourself.

When you look at this list, you may realise that you are much more intelligent than you think.

And to quote my friend Mr Degas:

There is no such thing as Intelligence; one has intelligence of this or that. One must have intelligence only for what one is doingEdgar Degas

Let me know what you think.

One Way to Manage Difficult People

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Here is a really simple way to manage a difficult person. Buy my book How to Manage Difficult People, and smack them discussionround the head with it!

Okay, let’s get a little bit serious.

When you speak with another person, it will most certainly be on a business level. Almost all communication takes place on a business level.

Buying a bar of chocolate in a shop requires Business level communication. You say what you want – ‘I’d like a bar of fruit and nut chocolate, please.’

Or in the office: ‘Mary, please type this report and return it to me this afternoon.’

These Business level interactions could be so much better if you add a Human level.

Think about your experiences

I’d like you to think for a moment about a time when you had really exceptional customer service. Perhaps it was when you booked a holiday, dealt with a utility company, or bought something in a shop or a store. Think about it for a moment and write down what made this service so good. When I do this exercise with a group of people, they can always tell me all the bad stories. However, they eventually come forward with examples of good service and they say things like:

  • The person who dealt with me was really kind
  • They listened to me
  • They made me feel important
  • They went out of their way
  • They were very friendly
  • They used my name

Occasionally some people will say:

  • The service was fast
  • They delivered on time
  • The product or service did what they said it would

The first group of answer always outweighs the second group. In other words – people make decisions about the level of customer service based on the interactions they have with the people in the business.

The comments in the first group are Human level responses.

The comments in the second group are Business level responses and are taken as a given.

We expect goods or services to be delivered on time, and do what the supplier said they would.

Think about a job experience

In a similar situation; if I ask participants in a seminar, to describe a job that they enjoyed, and what made it a good place to work, they rarely say things like:

  • I was well paid
  • The working conditions were excellent
  • We had a first-class staff restaurant
  • I attended some great training courses
  • I felt I had job security

They are more likely to say:

  • My boss always listened to me
  • He made me feel my comments had value
  • She was firm but fair
  • Told me when I did something well
  • Helped me when I hadn’t done something well
  • Told me what was happening in the company
  • I had some great colleagues and we worked well together as a team

The comments in the first group are Business level response.

The comments in the second list are Human level responses.

When interacting with other people, particularly difficult people, Human level responses are vitally important. It doesn’t matter if it’s face to face, over the phone, or by e-mail. You need to mix the Human with the Business.

People often say to me:

‘I don’t have time for all this nicey-nicey, touchy-feely stuff; I need to get the job done.’

My answer to that is:

‘If you introduce some Human level responses with the people you interact with, be they customers or staff, then you will get the job done, better, faster, and with less mistakes.’

This isn’t about being nicey-nicey, it’s about meeting the human needs of every person you interact with.

Human beings are almost totally driven by their emotions. If you meet their human needs then you’ll make managing difficult people a whole lot easier.

Check out the book – How to Manage Difficult People7018_155572617408_699287408_2759755_4580853_n

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10 Tips to Make Feedback Effective

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How often do you give feedback to your staff? And I don’t just mean when you want to correct some aspect of their interview 3behavior.

Feedback is one of the Top 3 factors that motivate people at work. The majority of employees want to know when they’re doing well, and when they could be doing better. There’s no doubt, that giving people feedback, is absolutely vital to ensure a motivated team who deliver results.

Whether you want to reinforce positive behavior or change unacceptable behavior, there are certain steps you need to follow to make it effective.

  1. Do it as soon as possible. When you see or hear something, you do or don’t like, you need to say something right away. If it’s positive feedback it’s not much use saying something months later.

It also makes sense to give constructive feedback as soon as you see, or hear something you don’t like. If you don’t do it right away, then the person will assume that you didn’t notice, or that it doesn’t matter, or that you don’t care.

  1. Do it in private. This seems like the most obvious thing to say but I still see managers giving a member of their team some positive feedback in front of other people be they colleagues or customers. Of course, it’s usually more of a reprimand. Some managers believe that if they’re seen and heard giving some feedback, then it will have an effect on the other team members, you bet it will – it’ll totally de-motivate them!


  1. Check that it’s okay to speak. If one of your team has just finished speaking to a customer on the phone, they might have some admin things to do before they forget. If you interrupt, then you risk being responsible for a customer not getting something they were promised.

It’s only good manners to check before speaking, and your people will respect you for it.

  1. Announce your intentions. If your people are not used to receiving regular feedback, what do you think runs through their mind when you pull up a chair, or ring them on the phone? You’re right, they think its bad news, that they’ve done something wrong, or there’s a problem.

It’s important therefore to tell them up front, what you want to speak about.

  1. Tell them how YOU feel about their behavior  Your people work for the same organisation as you, but it’s you they have to please. So make sure when you give feedback, it comes from you. That means not saying things like, ‘The company doesn’t like their employees to speak to customers like that.’ Or, ‘It’s not up to me, but you’d better improve your performance or you’ll be in trouble.’
  1. Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t confuse your team member with a whole list of behaviors. If it’s positive feedback then, you don’t want to list several things they’ve done well. You’re only diluting the whole feedback and it loses its impact.

If you’re giving constructive feedback, then you don’t want to confuse your team member with a whole catalog of behaviors that you’re unhappy about.

  1. Be specific. When you’re giving one of your team some feedback and coaching them, it’s so important to focus on job related behavior and not on the personality of the individual.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable giving feedback, try to focus on the person’s behavior on the job, in terms of how they conducted a particular task. That’s what you’re giving feedback on, not them as a person.

  1. Include the customer and the organisation. Whenever appropriate, relate what your feedback is about, to how the customer was affected. This of course could be an internal or an external customer. You could also relate it to how the organisation was affected, if relevant.
  1. Get input. When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to get the team members input. Listen to what they have to say and discuss how, you can, together, resolve the situation.

10. Don’t leave them low. This is particularly important after giving constructive feedback. As I said earlier, this isn’t an attack on the person; it’s about job related behavior. A team member should come out of a feedback session with their sense of self-worth intact.



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7 Reasons Why Some People Are Difficult

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When I’m running a seminar on How to Manage Difficult People, I often say to the group: ‘Please put up your hand if angry adultyou’re a difficult person who makes problems for other people.’

Guess what – not one person raises their hand? Now you’re probably thinking that nobody is going to admit to this, particularly in public. But I believe that no one, in any way, regards themselves as a difficult person.

It’s the other guy

I’ve asked this question many times, and out of the hundreds of people who’ve attended this seminar, no one puts their hand up. They will, however, go on to tell me about all the difficult customers they have to deal with, their manipulative boss, their problem staff, and the neighbours who won’t keep their children under control.

These figures don’t add up; we have hundreds of people who don’t believe they are difficult, telling me about hundreds of people who are.

It’s hard to find anyone who admits to being difficult. But it’s obvious that we’ve all, probably, been difficult to another person at sometime in our life.

However, research tells us that there are only two percent of the population who are genuinely difficult. So, what causes this difficulty?

  1. Stress. Some people get stressed for all sorts of reasons. Often it’s just their inability to deal with aspects of their job and their personal life. They tend to blame other people and circumstances, but most often they have the answers within themselves.
  2. Personal problems. It’s fair to say that people sometimes have problems that are out with their control. A death in the family, breakdown of a marriage or a relationship, problems with children, or they may feel unwell and have health issues.
  3. Not competent to do the job. It’s often the case, in the workplace, that people find difficulty in doing their job and in finding help. Although they may not admit to this, they might feel inadequate and express their frustration by complaining, being negative and difficult.
  4. Don’t know they’re being difficult. Some people are not conscious of how they’re perceived by others. They believe that their behaviour is quite normal, and are unable to understand why some people see it otherwise.
  5. They see the world differently. We all see the world differently from each other. But some people’s programming causes them to become annoyed when others don’t see it as they see it.
  6. Low self esteem. Some people’s lack of self-confidence and belief in themselves, often causes them to be angry at the world. They believe that other people are out to do them down and that everything is against them.
  7. Lack of Acknowledgement. It could be that they have a massive need for acknowledgement either physical or psychological. A human’s need for acknowledgement is so strong that they’ll sometimes behave badly to get that acknowledgement.

I’m sure you’re aware of children who behave badly in school just to get attention – well, adults do it too. That person in your team, who gives you all sorts of problems which are often difficult to understand, may just be seeking acknowledgement. Withdrawing or failing to provide acknowledgement will cause people to become difficult.

So there you have it; it’s worth bearing this in mind, when you next have to manage a difficult person.

This is an excerpt from my book How to Manage Difficult People.7018_155572617408_699287408_2759755_4580853_n

Available worldwide from Amazon and all good book retailers.

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2 Ways to Manage Difficult Staff

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Let me ask you a question; do you have any difficult people on your team? One of the subjects managers ask me about discussionmore than any other is: ‘How do I manage difficult staff?’

As we all know; dealing with the good guys is no problem, it’s the difficult ones that can be a challenge.

There are not as many as you think

You might disagree, but hear me out on this; in my experience as a manager, I found that there are very few really difficult staff. The people on your team don’t necessarily think, look or act the way you do, but that doesn’t necessarily make them difficult. It just makes them different!

Whose problem is it

The other day, I was listening to a teacher on television, talking about how he was unable to handle difficult schoolchildren. After listening to him for awhile, it became apparent that the problem didn’t lie with the children, as he was trying to suggest, but more with the teacher. He just wasn’t using good communication skills.

If you have a difficult team member, or even more than one, you may feel there’s not much you can do; but there is, so stay with me. 

Stop the fire in the first place

Instead of concentrating on managing difficult staff; it is much more productive to stop them being difficult in the first place. In other words; spend less time fire fighting and more time on fire prevention

If managers can create the right working environment for their team, then they’re less likely to experience difficult staff.

Here are two ways you could do that:

1. Spend some quality time.

I didn’t say quantity time I said quality time. One or two minutes of quality time on a regular basis are far more productive than a one hour review every year or six months.

You need to get to know your individual team members better and they need to get to know you.

Build a relationship with each individual; you’ll gain a much better understanding of them and how they’re handling the job. It will also give the impression that you care about them, and shows that you’re there to help with problems on a business level and a human level.

Find out as much as you can about them, their background, where they’re from, families, pets, hobbies, sports and their views on the world.

Discover their philosophies and faiths; how they think and how they feel. Just think about it like any other relationship – what do you want to know about this person?

It isn’t prying

Now I’m not suggesting you sit around all day gazing into each others eyes or spend half the night talking to them on the phone. And I’m certainly not suggesting that you become an agony aunt or uncle trying to solve their personal problems.

What I am suggesting is that over a period of time, slowly but surely, you build up your understanding of the person.  And, don’t get nervous; this isn’t prying!

You might also be thinking that your team members won’t want you to get to know them that well. Well let me reassure you – most of them will, if it’s done discretely.

Almost everyone wants to know that someone else is genuinely and positively interested in them. They may not always give that impression by their demeanour but trust me – they want to know you care; they want acceptance from you.

If they know you care about them, then your relationship will be much more productive.

2. Concentrate on what they do well

Here’s another way to manage a difficult employee.

Try concentrating on what they do well and tell them about it. Spend less time with, and even ignore bad behaviour.

It’s not uncommon for managers to invest 90 per cent of their energy responding to negative performance and only 10 per cent strengthening positive performance. If you reward good behaviour – you’ll get more of it. If you reward bad behaviour – you’ll get more of it.

Abe has the answers

It’s also very easy for a manager to fall into the trap of condemning one of their team as a no-hoper or a problem child.

It may turn out that this person shouldn’t be on your team, and you may need to help them find another position.

However as Abraham Lincoln once said about someone he had a problem with –

‘I don’t think I like that man, I must get to know him better.’

Some food for thought; get to know each member of your team much better, concentrate on what they do well and you’re less likely to have difficult staff.

There’s lots more in the book – How to Manage Difficult People 7018_155572617408_699287408_2759755_4580853_n


How to Manage Difficult People by Thinking

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Managing difficult people be they customers, employees, your boss or your mother in law, is a challenge most of us face thinkingat some time in our lives.

And what makes it so challenging is that human beings are driven primarily by their emotions; their map of the world and how they think things should be.

This includes values, and beliefs based on culture, how you were brought up and what you were taught. We have all been “programmed”.

Don’t think I like you

Often you just don’t like things about other people. Perhaps the way they dress, or the way they speak, the way they look, and their attitude. And that is just the way it is; don’t worry about it.

When people are similar to us, we usually have good rapport with them. But when these people are behaving in a way that we regard to be difficult we react from one of our in-built programs.

You may think that your behaviour is okay; but the other person is behaving in a way that goes against all your values and beliefs.

You may also think that you are doing your best to handle the difficult person, but you may in fact be making them even more difficult.

This comes across in the words you use, your tone of voice, and your body language.

Our behaviour is driven by how we were programmed and we tend to react rather than think.

Think don’t react

When managing a difficult person, you need to move to your Thinking program.

In your thinking program, you are cool, calm and reasonable. You are thinking, not reacting. You are not making emotional decisions and you are not allowing the other persons behaviour to influence your own.

You are in charge of your own behaviour, not any other person.

You may not agree with the other persons point of view or their behaviour; but that is their problem not yours.

Again, you will not allow the other person’s behaviour to influence yours.

You need to accept the fact that other people see the world differently from you.

It is about being assertive, not aggressive or submissive. You are not saying ‘sorry’ all the time, only offering reasonable suggestions to resolve the situation.

The way you behave will ‘invite’ behaviour from the other person.

If you are being controlling (which is a form of aggression) and tell the other person that you ‘can’t help them’ or ‘it’s not our policy’ to do something. Then you may ‘invite’ them to behave in a controlling way towards you.

If you stay in your thinking program and use more reasonable words and tone of voice such as – ‘I understand why that is a concern for you Mr Customer; I’m unable to do that for you because it would be a security issue that could affect your dealings with us.’

If you are in your thinking program, then the other person is more likely to move to their thinking program.

They may possibly think – ‘I’m not happy with this situation, but this person is very reasonable and I may just have to accept what they say.

As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company once said – ‘Thinking is the hardest work there is, that’s why so few people do it.’

Why don’t you be one of the few?


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