Dealing with difficult people presentation

Dealing with Difficult People
Parents and Colleagues
Proudly sponsored by:
Dealing with Difficult People
The IEU would like to show
our respect and acknowledge
the traditional custodians
and first peoples of the land
on which this meeting takes place.
Dealing with Difficult People
The workshop will:
 Look at how to assess the situation
 Review the impact of non-verbal signals in a
difficult situation
 Outline possible strategies to defuse a difficult
 Examine what to do if you are confronted with an
angry person
 Explore appropriate professional behaviours
Dealing with Difficult People
Be proactive!
Find out what the protocols are in your school
BEFORE a situation arises:
• Is there a policy?
• What are the support structures available to
• Talk to your supervisor
Dealing with Difficult People
When confronted, assess the situation.
Do you proceed?
Do you find a way to postpone and seek help?
You are not expected to deal with this alone.
Dealing with Difficult People
Skills built in this workshop:
• Reading body language
• Understanding of personality characteristics
• Using paraphrasing
• Strategic questioning
• Knowing how and when to leave a
confrontational situation and ask for support
Dealing with Difficult People
What types of body language
give a negative impression?
Dealing with Difficult People
Bored/disinterested body language
Checking the time
Inspecting fingernails/split ends
Leaning away
Not directly facing the person you are addressing
Poor posture
Propping your head up with your hands
Tapping fingers/feet
Dealing with Difficult People
Nervous body language
Scratching head or neck
Fixing your collar/clothes
Increased blinking rate
Slouched shoulders
Crossing your hands over your groin
Wiping your hands on your clothes
Sitting on the edge of your chair
Shifting body language from foot to foot
Dealing with Difficult People
Resistance body language
• Holding objects in front of your body
• Touching your face during a conversation
– Nose
– Mouth
• Fake smile
• Crossing arms
Dealing with Difficult People
Judgmental body language
Picking lint off your clothes and looking
Stroking your chin
Narrowing eyes
Looking down your nose/looking downwards
Hands behind head or on hips
Dealing with Difficult People
Angry body language
Standing too close
Lowering and spreading the body
Making fists
Jutting chin
Dealing with Difficult People
Establishing a base line
Remember – some people have
habitual body language that
doesn’t actually tell you anything,
but could be read as negative
Dealing with Difficult People
Cultural differences
The study of body language
is an emerging field,
but some cultural differences are known.
Dealing with Difficult People
Remember – some people can fake body
• Appear more confident through stance and
• Forcing a blush
• Crying on cue
• Other examples?
Dealing with Difficult People
Defusing a situation
Start with body language
And don’t forget to breathe!
Dealing with Difficult People
Good seated body language
Put both hands on table and keep them at rest
Angle legs towards the person, but keep feet
either flat on the floor or tucked and crossed
under the seat
Don’t lean back
Straight spine – square shoulders, face the person
Keep your face level
Dealing with Difficult People
Good standing posture
Set your feet square – stabilise your body
Step backwards from an aggressive situation
Keep face level
Hands at side
Hold your shoulders squarely
Dealing with Difficult People
When a difficult person approaches you, don’t
take their tone or behaviour personally.
You might not be the cause of it.
What might have occurred before they
approached you?
Dealing with Difficult People
Types of difficult people
Knowing the personality
of the difficult person might help you
navigate ways about the moment of conflict
Remember – people aren’t their behaviour.
People change, and we can all be difficult in
different ways.
Dealing with Difficult People
The Know-It-All’s potential characteristics:
Acting like they know more than you
Acting as if they are better than you
Telling you things, even if you don’t want to know
Might be gossips
Possible strategies:
• don’t be careless with words or details – know your mind
• soften statements with ‘bear with me a moment’ and ‘I was
just wondering’
• give person shared ownership of the problem – use plural
nouns (‘we’, ‘us’)
Dealing with Difficult People
The Too-Agreeable’s potential characteristics:
• Make promises when approached, but can’t deliver
• Agrees with others to make them feel accepted
• Uses humour to deflect moments of tension
Possible strategies:
• Make it safe to be honest
• If they fail to deliver something, hear the person out –
don’t interrupt at first. They might just fall back to
agreeing with you
• Let them know an appropriate time to back out of a
commitment, and make them feel safe to do so
Dealing with Difficult People
The Bully’s potential characteristics:
• Immovable positions – they want you to move for them
• They may lie in wait for your mistakes
• Will attack when feeling threatened
• Hold your ground – make eye contact and breath slowly
• Interrupt and paraphrase the main point
• Promote empathy ‘From my point of view…’ or ‘The way I
see it’
• Attempt to re-schedule the conversation to another time. ‘I
hear your concern, but I think we need to talk about this
when we’re both settled…’
Dealing with Difficult People
The Complainer’s potential characteristics:
• Not happy with changes
• May want others to feel guilt or blame
• Refuse to work to solutions, wants to be part of an obstacle
Possible solutions:
• Listen with paper and pen
• Ask for their help in identifying the root cause of the problem – vague
unhappiness is not something you can fix
• Shift focus to small step solutions – they will want to talk about
generalised problems
• Show them the future is achievable – try to remove helplessness
• Draw a line when the conversation loops back over points already made.
Dealing with Difficult People
The Negative Person’s potential characteristics:
• Doesn’t want to change
• May not want to deal with the problem
• Doesn’t think solutions will work
Possible strategies:
• Avoid trying to show them how it could be worse to force them to
be positive
• Don’t rush them – they may come back to you when they are ready
‘If you change your mind, let me know’, ‘When you think of a
solution, get back to me’, ‘If you think of any ideas, get back to me’
• Acknowledge their good intent – appreciate their high standards,
willingness to speak up, and concern with the details.
Dealing with Difficult People
The Procrastinator’s potential characteristics:
Always want to do things later
Happier to let someone else do it
Can’t do it until the conditions are perfect
Can’t release a project until it is perfect
Possible strategies:
• mini-deadlines with achievable steps
• Ask what it is that makes them uncomfortable
about the task (literacy skills, too much work,
trouble at home, etc)
Dealing with Difficult People
Steps for dealing with angry people:
Greet the person pleasantly
Remain calm and respectful
Listen with limited interruptions
Use good listening skills and encouragers
Acknowledge the anger
Paraphrase and summarise
Apologise if an apology is required
Listen for statements that can be agreed with
Don’t debate the facts if the person is still angry
Ensure the person understands what you say - ‘yes’
does not indicate understanding
Handout: 5.3 Reducing Conflict and Optimising Communication
Dealing with Difficult People
Often people skip words and sentences
when they are angry.
As your confusion grows,
they read your non-verbal signals as
disagreement or resistance.
If you pause the person and
paraphrase their concern back to them,
it helps them to breath, which calms them,
and makes them hear what you understood.
Handout: 5.4 The Art of Paraphrasing
Dealing with Difficult People
Strategic Questions
By asking strategic questions, you are:
• Acknowledging that there might be a better way
• Putting some onus on the difficult person to help
think of a solution as well
• Reinforcing that there might be multiple points of
view on the one situation
Handout: 5.5 Working with resistance
Dealing with Difficult People
Using the techniques of
paraphrasing and strategic questioning,
find a way of moving the difficult person
forward from their original problem.
Dealing with Difficult People
Remember - If you find yourself in a situation
where you feel the discussion should not
proceed, you can end the conversation.
Phrases that work:
• “Let’s talk more in depth about this on…”
• “Maybe we should make a time to sit down
and chat about this…”
Dealing with Difficult People
You are able to ask your supervisor or principal
for support in confrontational situations with
colleagues, volunteers or parents/caregivers.
It is part of your employer’s duty
to provide a safe workplace,
which includes not feeling vulnerable.
Dealing with Difficult People
What do you do if school protocols don’t work
and you’re not getting the support you need?
• Talking to IEU Rep
• Taking the issue to the school chapter
• Talking to your IEU Organiser
Dealing with Difficult People
Contacting the IEU
• Contact the Union for support and advice as
soon as possible
8202 8900
1800 467 943 (Toll free)
• Read and follow the school policy and

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