MSS #054: Tension into Tranquillity: Dealing with Difficult People with Ease

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MSS #054: Tension into Tranquility: Dealing with Difficult People with Ease

20 Jan 24

MSS #054 Tension into Tranquility: Dealing with Difficult People with Ease

20 Jan, 2024

Read time: 4.3 minutes

Short on time? Head straight to ‘Response Techniques library’ and skip the rest – reduced read time 1.9 minutes.

This week I am covering a topic that comes up a lot – “how do I deal with someone that just totally winds me up?” Sometimes this request is sadly modified that someone feels intimidated by this other person.

This happens a lot. I experienced it with a boss that was basically a bully, disguised so it was difficult to take anything up formally.

I’ll share quite a few techniques to help you out.

You have the power

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation that felt more like a collision?

Where despite your best efforts, the person you're engaging with just seems to rub you the wrong way?

It's as if your worldviews are from different planets. Or on a deeper level, they echo a challenging relationship from your past.

Perhaps you found yourself wound up by certain individuals, perhaps without even understanding why?

Sometimes, our reactions are shaped by different worldviews, or subconsciously, individuals remind us of someone from our past.

What if you could shift this dynamic, not by changing them, but by transforming your own response?

This is the key to all these techniques, we cannot change the other person. We can influence them, but that can take time and a lot of skill.

Changing our own response is in our control, just needs the right technique for you and a little practice.


Response Techniques library

Take a look through these different techniques for changing your response to that person.

Select just one, that resonates or feels right for you.


1. Mindset Shift: Seeing Yourself Anew 

Your self-perception lays the foundation for how you interact with others. By viewing yourself as a person of calm and reason, you can approach challenging people with a fresh mindset. It's not about changing who they are, but how you respond to them.

Seeing yourself as a calm, collected communicator can dramatically change the game. By shifting how you view these interactions, you transform them from stressors into opportunities for personal growth.


2.The Power of Labels: A Touch of Humour 

Here’s a novel idea - give that difficult person a 'pet name' in your mind.

Maybe they’re a 'Bumbling Bee' or a 'Chatterbox Turtle'. A label that's harmless or humorous can shift your perception from threat to treat.

Remember, keep these names to yourself to maintain professionalism.

Labels can be a light-hearted way to defuse tension. Give that difficult person a pet name in your mind, something that paints them as harmless or even comical.

The other benefit is the fear mechanisms in our minds reside in the rear of the brain. By using a labelling name, we use the front of the brain, where our rational, pragmatic thinking takes place. So giving something a name changes our thinking and how we respond as well.

Giving that troublesome person your own name, invites the rational, pragmatic part of your brain to be present, limiting the impact of the irrational part of the brain where our fear system resides.


3.Sympathy: Responding with Compassion 

Imagine the inner turmoil that must drive someone to behave poorly towards others.

By feeling genuine sympathy for them, you change the energy of the interaction. This isn’t about excusing their behaviour, but about empowering yourself to respond with kindness.

What if you approached these moments with pure sympathy?

Consider the possibility that their behaviour stems from their own struggles. This perspective can soften your reaction and open a door to a more compassionate response and gives you choice and control about your reaction to them.


4.The Independent Observer: Detachment for Insight 

When revisiting past conflicts in your mind, step back and watch the scene as an independent observer, like a detective.

This detachment allows you to see the bigger picture and assess the situation more objectively, often leading to insightful breakthroughs.

Imagining you’re an independent observer of your conversations, like a detective. Watching from the outside, you gain a balanced view and a detached perspective. This mental repositioning helps you approach the situation with fresh eyes.


5.Seat Rotation: Changing Perspectives 

In recurring meetings with tension, try a simple yet effective technique: seat rotation.

By swapping seats, especially between those who clash, you can alter the dynamics of the room and potentially improve communication.

It’s quirky but effective trick for group dynamics. In your next meeting, play musical chairs! Encourage everyone to switch seats, especially those who seem to be at odds.

It's fascinating how a change in perspective can alter the energy of a room and the people who swopped seats, cannot help starting to see things from the other persons perspective.


6.Features: The Artist's Focus 

Handle with care: Focus on a distinctive feature of the person, akin to an artist creating a caricature. This isn't about mockery, but about finding a harmless detail to direct your attention to during interactions, reducing the emotional charge.

Be careful with this one but try to notice one thing about the person that stands out - like an artist capturing the essence of their subject. It could be a tie, a gesture, or even a frequent phrase they use. Focusing on this can give you a neutral ground to mentally stand on.


Communications and thinking styles

Sometimes the cause of conflict is as simple as having a very different communication or thinking style, or both between you and the other person. Let me explain more and give you a brief insight.

Communication preferences  We tend to understand the world in one of three ways, visually (sight) , audibly (sound) or kinaesthetically (touch).

Occasionally people using Olfactory (smell) or Gustatory (taste) as their reference language, this does not happen often.

Sometimes we switch between one of the three main references, but often we have a strong preference, which will come out when we speak.

Here are some simple examples you might commonly notice.

Notice the language of the other person and see if they are using a different preference to you and swap to theirs.

We all process information differently—visually, audibly, or kinaesthetically.

Tune into the language of the other person.

If they speak in visual terms and you're more kinaesthetic, try adapting your language to match theirs.

Aligning your communication style with theirs can bridge gaps.

Understanding Personality Profiles 

We all have different thinking styles. There are lots of systems you can use to assess this.

I use a well researched and proven system called Emergenetics, if this is of interest to you, I can provide profiles and train teams on how to communicate better.

Personality profiles - we tend to all have up to 4 thinking styles.

Most people have a preference in 2-3 thinking styles, rarely all 4 and occasionally one thinking style. Knowing what you’re thinking style(s) are and the other persons can often explain the gap in communication.

Understanding that we all have different thinking styles can illuminate why communication breaks down. Identify your dominant styles and compare them to the person you’re interacting with. This insight can be the key to unlocking more effective interactions.

This is a subject it itself. When you learn how to recognise thinking preferences and you learn how to communicate to different thinking preferences, it opens a whole world of realisations and insights.

This Week's Challenge: Reflect on a recent encounter with someone you find difficult. How could these strategies change the outcome? Implement one technique and observe the difference it makes.



Difficult people are a part of life, but they don't have to dictate our emotional state. By applying these methods, you can turn every challenging interaction into an opportunity for personal growth and improved communication.

We discussed two approaches.

1. Changing YOUR response

a) Mindset Shift: Seeing Yourself Anew

b) The Power of Labels: A Touch of Humour

c) Sympathy: Responding with Compassion

d) The Independent Observer: Detachment for Insight

e) Seat Rotation: Changing Perspectives

f) Features: The Artist's Focus

2. Understanding communication and thinking styles

Communications styles – Visual, Audio and Kinaesthetic

Thinking styles – I use Emergenetics


Which of these strategies do you find most compelling, and why? Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts.


See you next week. If you haven't already, follow me on LinkedIn and hit the bell for daily posts on tips, insights and techniques.

Want more? 

When you're ready, 3 ways I can help you:

1. My book - Nuclear Powered Resilience

If you want to either build a high level or resilience or overcome a past trauma that is holding you back - check out my book.

2. Build self confidence and resilience fast - £48 training course

I have developed my book into a course to help you fully implement the benefits of my book.

Golden Resilience Habit

3. Work with me 121 - start with a FREE 15 minutes exploration session.

Let’s have an open chat and explore how I can help you and what is troubling you.

If we both think we can work together and I have what you need we can go from there.

Want to explore what else I do? including corporate speaking, coaching and workshops - say hello in an email and let’s explore together.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, really hope this helped. Contact me if you think I can help you further at [email protected].

Happy thinking.