Dealing with Difficult People Part 4

Remember the Diamond D’s: Detach, disassociate, and defuseThe Diamond D’s are the best ways to deal with difficult people.

Part 1 of this article series

Part 2

Part 3

The Diamond D’s or Triple D’s is a good way to remember the most helpful set of behaviors when you’re faced with someone who’s being difficult and even irrational.  Remember, you can’t control someone else. And if someone is difficult and especially if they’re irrational, trying to control them can be like throwing grease on the fire.  That’s going to bring up their defensiveness and they’ll just double down on their position (hey, lots more D’s…but let’s not focus on those!).

First detach by staying calm, even-voiced, and rational in the face of their difficult behavior. Just like a screaming toddler, the more attention you give a difficult person, the more she/he will demand. By staying detached, you lessen the risk of a fight, battle, or losing your own hard fought calm and cool. As stated, a difficult person can’t wage war alone. If you are detached, soon he/she will ‘run out of steam’ and move on.

Disassociate by physically removing yourself from that person. Walk away. Go to the restroom. Take a five minute air break  If you can’t physically move away (as Emma couldn’t in meetings), mentally move away. Go to your ‘happy place,’ anything that removes you mentally from the difficult person. Find your center of calm and stay there.

Defuse the situation by not engaging in a battle for control with the difficult person. Let him/her talk until he/she needs to gulp air or a supervisor halts him/her. A bomb needs two things to explode: air and a fuse. Don’t be either. If others engage, let them. Remember, you aren’t trying to change anyone but yourself. Do what you need to be adult, professional, and the ‘bigger person.’ This is often simply keeping your mouth closed.

Until this becomes second nature to you, practice this in your “mental rehearsal” is a great way to groove in the behavior so that when something like this comes up, your neurology isn’t just going to go back to your previous response patterns of engaging the person.  Mental rehearsal is a self hypnosis technique, and literally is closing your eyes, imagining this type of situation (or remembering one from the past) and seeing, feeling and hearing yourself go through the Diamond D’s.  Really FEEL the feeling of detachment when you do this, and feel the sense of relief/triumph/accomplishment at the end as you imagine a better outcome for yourself. Importantly, that better outcome needs to be for you, not for the other person, or the business, or the department, or whatever.  Because you are only in charge of you.

Emma practiced the triple D’s often during team meetings. She found her coworker’s behavior not as annoying because she simply gave up the struggle to rationalize why he was so difficult and how to change him. (Remember, “that which we resist, persists” — Jung.) Emma realized what she needed to do to finish her work and move projects forward completely separate and apart from her coworker. By not calling him out during meetings or trying to talk over him, Emma saved herself a lot of trouble and sore throats. She also took away his power over her in making the day good or bad.

Next up: Your most powerful weapon in dealing with difficult people

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