“She drives me CRAZY”

Recently, I’ve been hardcore obsessed with watching Chef’s Table. One of my favorite things about it is learning the stories of how these chefs rose to the top of their game.

An interesting theme in their stories, though, is that a lot of them had bosses that were a little nuts. I believe the word politely used to describe them was ‘tyrants’.

One story in particular tells of how one of chefs was so thrilled to finally be working for one of his heroes…only to walk out 2 weeks later because he was so disgusted with how the head chef treated his team. It completely disillusioned him and his love for cooking.

But you’re not a chef. So why am I talking about this?

Today, I want to talk about difficult people.

Not only are they hard to deal with, but if you’re dealing with one at work, it can completely change how you feel about what you’re doing…even if what you’re doing hasn’t changed!

Because our environments affect us so much more than we think. Sometimes, it isn’t until we’re out of that environment do we look back and think, Damn. That was pretty bad.

But what if you love what you’re doing, but have a crusty peer or co-worker who really grinds your gears? Or what if this is just what you’re doing right now, but it’s getting harder and harder to feel excited because that ONE person has no idea how to give constructive criticism or send an email that actually makes sense–wasting a ton of your time and energy?

I’ll tell you about what one of my clients and I did about a co-worker she had who was giving her some trouble.

When she described the situation to me, I knew we had a stage 5 whiner on our hands. This was someone who didn’t like to take responsibility, always blamed others for what went wrong, and then complained about it.

One of the most important things I like to remember when you start making sense of a situation like this is to give yourself the time and space to be angry, vent about it, feel frustrated. You need to acknowledge that your feelings are real–and take care of them–so that you can see the best way to handle it clearly.

Then, it’s time to understand the other person.

As I told my client, what it really sounded like was that this woman felt very scared, like an anxious child. Children feel awful when they think something is their fault. And if an adult feels that way but doesn’t know how to process it, it’s pretty natural for them to get defensive and put the blame on someone else. They haven’t learned a better way to handle it.

Once my client was armed with that understanding, I asked her: “How would you have the conversation you need to have with this person, then, if you acted as if they were your child?”

Her demeanor completely changed. The tone of her voice sounded warm, empathetic. And she was able to have a much better, and wildly constructive conversation with this person (where it seemed impossible before). This isn’t to say that this ‘solves everything’, but it’s a beautiful starting point for setting a different tone, developing trust, and ultimately, a better relationship with someone you thought was impossible to get along with.

And I truly believe that this is the easiest to do if you have someone to talk you through it. Because when it happens to US…and we try to sort it out on our own…we can still feel angry and resentful and not make a change. That’s why I love talking to a coach, or my husband, or a good friend who’s a great listener to help me find solutions. (Basically, having a support system is KEY)

But wait just one second. This isn’t so cut-and-dry.

What do YOU think was one of the most important parts of this strategy, and why it can work?

I’ll give you a hint: What kind of mentality…or mindset…allows one to come to a solution that is based on focusing on how to understand the other person better and work around that?

What I’ll tell you is for one, it is NOT about having a template or a perfect thing to say. No pre-written script will be the one solution.

It isn’t any certain ‘trick’ or ‘tactic’ that will magically make the other person suddenly do a 360 and never give you problems again.

It ALSO isn’t a one-time thing. Notice I said ‘starting point’–not “Then, you’re done!”

Part of being a dynamic and inspiring leader is about doing the hard work to understand YOURSELF…so that you can better understand and read others…which allows you to know exactly how to handle others–no matter how difficult they are.

It’s an on-going process that changes ALL the time. But the mentality is the starting point.

What’s 1 thing you’re going to start doing to cultivate that kind of mindset today? Put it in the comments below.


PS: I’d love to get your input on something I’m working on. I’m developing a leadership workshop just for women, and the 1 thing I’d love to hear from you is: What are 3 things you want to learn that would help you become a better, more influential, and inspiring leader? Reply back and let me know (and braindump, please!)

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