Most of us would rather avoid confrontation. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is not free of it. We have to be dealing with difficult people and situations in our business from time to time.
Here’s the good news. In some ways, handling demanding people is a little easier online because that person isn’t in your face. You also have the luxury of time and to respond on your terms. Try these techniques the next time you encounter a troll, an upset customer or someone who is just plain rude.
When Dealing With Difficult People, Keep Calm
This is always so much easier said than done in the heat of the moment. However, as mature adults, we simply must learn to contain the natural anger and hurt.
For me, staying detached helps. I pretend like I’m a customer service rep just doing his job. Often, I even introduce or sign off with a different name (that has other benefits too). This way, I’m forced to be calmer – after all, if I were a rep who wants to keep his job, I should be nice.
Don’t Sweep Them Under The Rug
It is awfully tempting to close your eyes and pretend things never happened. However, when people misbehave on your turf, such as your blog, your forum, your Facebook group or page, your help desk, it’ll only hurt in the long run to let things slide.
Resentment among members will seep into the community. Those following you will notice the lack of leadership. And, if it’s a customer issue, you’ll probably lose them for good. It’s hard but you should always acknowledge the offender.
Respond Later – But Not Too Late
Just because you must respond doesn’t mean you should jump right to it. Try not to get roped into a match in the heat of the moment. Let a comment stand 15 – 30 minutes or even an hour or two. It’ll be OK. You’ll probably have a clearer head by then. You might also have given the other person some time to chill out.
Ask Your Trusted Peers For Input
There are two scenarios when to use this. First, when you are stumped at how to respond to a particular issue. Two, when you want to validate your response is the best possible one you can give.
Almost always, I find others will give, or remind me of a different perspective. This usually leads to a clearer, better thought out reaction that seeks to reconcile rather than alienate.
Give The Benefit of The Doubt
We all have bad days where one bad thing seems to lead into another. Whether we realize it or not, we offload this negative energy onto others. Perhaps that’s what’s happening to this person.
Resist The Urge To Defend
Sometimes, no matter how you say it, explaining yourself always comes off as defensive. This could infuriate people even more, sending the situation spiraling in a direction you don’t want.
That’s not to say you admit defeat or apologize for what you believe in. Instead, saying something simple like this could diffuse the situation quickly. “I can see how that would be upsetting. Thank you for voicing your opinion.”
Whenever my children cry about who did/said something bad to them first, I’ll respond with, “Yes, that wasn’t nice but you don’t have to return the favor.”
By returning rudeness with politeness, we break the cycle. The buck stops with you.
Sift Through For Real Nuggets
Unless it’s a personal attack, underneath all the tough words, there could be truth. This person might be pointing out something you overlooked. They might be showing you a different way and point of view. It’s hard to read but after time has passed, try to ascertain if there is something you can learn from it. It’s OK to feel a little upset again but don’t let that take over. Focus on what you can learn and you’ll see it.
Cut Them Loose
No matter what you try, some people may be beyond helping. Limit your time with them. Get someone else to assist them. Try to have short conversations or those that steer clear of hot button topics. If you really cannot be around them, cut them loose completely.
It’s never easy dealing with difficult people. Give yourself permission to feel hurt, to even get upset. You can’t win over everyone, but if you stay classy, you’ll always come out a winner, no matter what the immediate results are.