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6 Easy Steps to Managing Differences or Difficult Interaction

Posted by evelyn
January 29

difficult people at workDifferences can occur in different ways. They can be contradictions, they don’t necessarily have to just be cultural or generational differences.  They can come as a result of ambiguities, uncertainties or misunderstandings. These steps can help you manage these differences.


Identify the cause.

Ask whether you and the other person have differing:

  • Interests on an issue
  • Perceptions about what’s critical
  • Motivations
  • Work styles
  • Communication styles
  • Life experiences and cultural backgrounds

Differing interests can be addressed by creative solutions that at least partially satisfy both individuals’ interests. Other differences, when discussed constructively, can lead to a new understanding of one another’s perspectives.


Decide whether to deal with the situation.

You should attempt to improve matters with the other person when you’ve dealt with your own contributions to the problem but the difficulty persists;

  • You want to do what’s best for the long run, not simply vent your feelings to achieve short-term emotional relief
  • Your working relationship with the other person is important and long term, and the stakes are high
  • There’s hope of improving the situation because neither one of you is profoundly troubled emotionally or has a long history of destructive relationships with many people across a wide range of situations


Assess the facts.

With the other person, share perceptions of what’s going on and explain where those perceptions are coming from. Cite information you’re using, experiences you’ve had, and assumptions about what’s critical.

Also compare your intentions—you may discover that you have similar aims and priorities but are dealing with them differently.

Finally, acknowledge your contributions to the problem, and encourage the other person to do the same.


Identify the emotions.

During the early conversations, also describe the emotions you experience as a result of the difficult interactions with the other person. Be sure to describe feelings as your feelings, rather than make character judgments or accusations about the other person. Invite the other person to do the same.

Also consider defusing intense negative emotions you’re experiencing—for example, by reminding yourself that the other person has good intentions.


Deal with concerns about self-image.

While clarifying the facts and emotions involved in a series of difficult interactions, also address concerns about self-image. Rather than assuming that you’re either competent or incompetent, a good person or a bad person, and so forth, accept that everyone is a mix of strengths and weaknesses and that each person makes mistakes. Probe for any concerns about self-image in the other person as well.


Create a plan for change.

Together with the other person, craft a plan for change based on your new understanding about interests, motivations, and differences. Once you’ve decided on a plan that satisfies each side’s differing concerns and interests, determine how you’ll measure success and how you’ll communicate going forward.


So how do you manage difficult interactions?