I’d wager a bet that if I asked you to think of a colleague or two that you have difficulty communicating with, you’d have no problem doing so.
In fact, it would probably take you a mere nanosecond.
Yep, we all have challenges working together and we all need to work better together.
Before I share with you some tips on communicating with difficult personalities, allow me to open your eyes to the cost of not doing so.
We have workplace conflict. Everywhere. All the time. And the cost of conflict is enormous.
Here are some figures associated with the cost of workplace conflict:
- In the UK alone it’s estimated to be £28.5 billion which is an “average of just over £1,000 for every employee in the UK each year and just under £3,000 annually for each individual involved in conflict.”
- “Employees in United States companies spend approximately 2.8 hours each week involved in conflict.That’s around $359 billion in hours paid that are filled with – and focused on – conflict instead of on positive productivity.” Source: Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, 2021
- The cost of workplace conflict in South Africa alone is $13 billion per year. Source: CBN, 2023
This is why, when I came across Rosemary Counter’s article “How to Get Along With Anyone, Master awkward conversations with these nine tricky personality types” I decided to share her wise counsel with you.
I’ve summarized her article (link to the full article below) in the following chart.
And remember that difficult personality I asked you to think of? See if she/he/they fit into one of these types and make particular note of Rosemary’s suggestions of how to deal with said personality.
|Always sees life as unfair and tends to complain about trivial things.
|Start with empathy, listen to their bigger concerns, and challenge their negativity with positive questions. Kill ’em with kindness and hope it rubs off.
|Loves to argue for the sake of argument.
|Pick your battles, agree on inconsequential matters, and ask about their personal experiences to shift the conversation. Disarm with agreement and change the topic when necessary.
|Constantly interrupts and shares their own stories.
|Encourage them to talk, ask questions, and then politely share your own experiences. Use “Tell me more” and eventually reciprocate.
|The Tech Addict
|Distracted by their phone, often appearing disinterested.
|Address their behavior politely, suggest phone-free interactions, or ask about what’s on their phone. Prioritize building a better conversation and inquire about the allure of their phone.
|The Political Antagonist
|Has opposing political views and loves to debate.
|Keep discussions civil, avoid personal hostility, and be open to learning from each other. Calmly express that you didn’t realize the importance of the topic to them.
|The Inappropriate “Jokester”
|Makes offensive jokes or comments.
|Speak up if someone is hurt or present and address the issue, but avoid personal attacks. Say, “That’s not okay,” or, “That sounds offensive to me.”
|The Drama Queen (or King)
|Exaggerates every situation to seek attention.
|Set clear boundaries, limit dramatic discussions, and show that you value their real self. Establish boundaries in advance and engage in conversations with defined time limits.
|Acts as a friend and an enemy, often subtly undermining you.
|Recognize negative judgments, address them directly, and be open to deeper conversations if you want to salvage the relationship. Protect yourself by acknowledging and confronting negative judgments.
|Shares too much personal information and lacks boundaries.
|Share something less invasive, set boundaries when needed, and use compliments to shift the conversation. Politely redirect with “Omg, that’s private!” and offer compliments to subtly reset boundaries.
Can you relate to one (or all nine?!)?
The next time one of these personality types tries to do your head in at work, make use of Rosemary’s advice.
Your mental health will thank you.
Now go on and learn, learn some more, and lead
- Check out the full article “How to Get Along With Anyone, Master awkward conversations with these nine tricky personality types” by Rosemary Counter
- When conflict sets in, we tend to fight, freeze, or flee. However, there are other options, as Rosemary has suggested. With some practice, it can become second nature, even easier than this baby trying to master a ‘simple’ thumbs up.
- Once you’ve determined which personality type you’re dealing with, practice Rosemary’s suggestions on how to work with them. Applying these strategies will significantly improve your outcomes.
- Print off the chart and have it nearby for handy reference, especially if you’re surrounded by difficult personalities. Keeping it within reach will be particularly useful when navigating challenging people.