Home » How to Deal with Difficult People: Jay Johnson (Transcript)

How to Deal with Difficult People: Jay Johnson (Transcript)

We see somebody do something that we feel like it’s aggressive, but on the other side of things we look at our friend that does the exact same behavior and we say: Wow! They’re dedicated, motivated, passionate even.

So some of these labels start to infiltrate the way that we understand the world. It’s a bias that we have.

So we want to look a little bit deeper and ask the question of why: Why did somebody behave that way? Is it something inherent? Is it an intrinsic desire that is pushing them to behave that way?

Now this is a tough question, because we’re in a heat at the moment. One of the things that we get really frustrated with is ourselves in that moment. We don’t take the time to actually ask; we just label and continue. But again it’s your heart attack. It’s your organization that’s suffering.

So we have to look at this in a different way. Asking questions is one of the best ways to explain behavior. And I’m going to give you an example of a case study… one of my favorite case studies… of when I was working with two different divisions in a management organization.

One division had manager and I’m going to rename them Bill and Ted to protect the guilty. We had Bill on one side and we had Ted on the other. And these two could not get along in any way shape or form. They were constantly at odds with each other, causing projects to fail.

And ultimately, I was brought in to take a look at this and say: What behaviors are existing that’s creating this situation?

So I had Bill and Ted both write out everything that they felt about the other person. I asked them to put everything onto paper. And then I had them submit that to me.

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So I take a look at this. I review it. And as I’m reading through it and the value of being an objective outside observer is something incredibly valuable to take yourself out of a situation is something that you can do also.

As I start reading, I read Bill’s all about Ted. And Bill says: Ted is constantly coming to my office asking questions. He’s bothering me. He will never leave me alone. He’s such a constant contact.

Okay. So then I read Ted’s, and Ted says: Bill just can’t be bothered with me. My manager keeps telling me to go to Bill and ask him these questions to find out more because all of his experience, his knowledge, his value to the organization. But he just won’t listen. He’s such a not listener.

So I bring these two people in and I put them at the table. And I share with them each other’s perspective. And I swear it was just like lady in a tramp when all of a sudden they looked at each other like: Oh my goodness. I had no idea that you valued my opinion so much.

And on the other side, it was oh my goodness. I can’t believe that that’s the way that I’m coming off in this environment.

And all of a sudden, we start to look and they were able to answer each other’s narrative. That narrative that was hidden to them because they didn’t ask questions. They didn’t go to why. They just labeled. They labeled them difficult.

Once we can explain behaviors, then we can predict behaviors. We can predict what’s going to happen. That’ll help to reduce uncertainty.

Uncertainty is one of the things… if you’ve ever gotten a phone call from a superior saying “Hey, can you come down to my office?”, immediately what happens? You don’t think oh I’m going to get a raise. This is going to be great.

You start thinking yourself: What did I do? Oh my gosh, this could be the worst.

That uncertainty creates some of that anxiety. And when we bring that anxiety into a conversation or into the relationship, that’s going to be felt by the other person.

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So by being able to predict those types of behaviors, it’ll actually reduce the anxiety. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve said, “Hey, listen, my friend is probably going to say X, Y or Z. Don’t be offended by it. That’s just how they are.”

That’s a fundamental effect of prediction. We can forgive or we can be prepared so that we were not hit with an onslaught of anxiety.

Influencing behaviors. We look at this and say how do we necessarily influence that person that is a difficult person?

One is by using inclusive language. When we talk about somebody… if I say your behavior is doing X, Y and Z, immediately the wall is going to go up. They’re going to get defensive. They’re going to look for the ways in which your behavior contributes to it and fire back.

And all of a sudden, we’re now in an argument. And we’re in a place where we can’t necessarily get out of that difficulty.

Versus, when we start to talk and use inclusive language, like I notice that we’re having some trouble communicating. Hear that keyword “we’re”….we are having trouble communicating, because communication is a two-way street.

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