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Effective Strategies For Dealing With Difficult People

by Marty Latz

“He was demanding, unorganized and he didn’t know what he really wanted. And he took a shotgun approach to the issues, all of which needed to be resolved immediately. It lasted six months, and it was incredibly frustrating.”

This comment by a client sums up a situation most negotiators have faced in the past or will face in the future:

How do you deal effectively with “difficult” people in a negotiation? Use this five-step approach:

1. Identify what it is that makes them “difficult.”

Take a step back from the table and identify those specific traits and behaviors. If they are angry and vindictive and want a pound of your flesh, you won’t want to take the same approach that you would if their emotionalism makes you uncomfortable and frustrated.

2. Find out why they are being “difficult.”

Put on your psychologist hat — all negotiators have a bit of a psychologist in them — and explore why your counterpart is behaving in such a fashion.

Evaluate if their behavior is:

a) simply their personality style or approach to conflict;

b) a cultural tendency or trait;

c) a specific tactic they are using to intimidate you;

d) due to something that recently happened in their life; or

e) something else.

How can you find out? You could ask your counterpart directly about it and describe your frustration. Ask what they would do if they were in your shoes.

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July 2007