Photo by Tony Crider

Is there someone in your sphere of influence who is difficult for you to deal with? Makes you a little insane from time to time? Do you have a phrase or two with lots of emotion  that says it all for you?

This post asks you to engage in two questions:

  1. Does labeling people’s behaviors help you engage more effectively?
  2. What are the personality characteristics that are most difficult for you?

Labeling—Where’s the Power?

Does that silent or agitated “naming” of the person get any results for you? New ideas? Possible ways to approach the person?

In fact, for most of us labeling a set of behaviors (positive or negative) generally stops our thinking short. If we add a dose of anger or upset, we are even less likely to find a way forward that will get the best result. Instead, a lot of blaming or complaining ensues, gathering support for our views from our most trusted allies.

Of course, language presents a big challenge here because we naturally observe a set of complex actions and behaviors and tell the story in a phrase. It’s much easier to say “Jill always hi-jacks the meeting agenda” than ” 3 of the 5 last meetings, Jill interrupted the group and asserted a more important topic to discuss.” We tend to roll up all those events and, if we don’t like it, we find a phrase that both communicates the general actions or outcome and our discontent.

The focus is on Jill. The solution is about Jill changing her behaviors. In fact, the term “hi-jacks” implies a negative intent. Capturing the situation with this label creates resistance to Jill. Yet, in order to influence change, one would have to look much more carefully and open up some thinking about what else happens in the meeting. What does the leader do when Jill jumps in? What does the rest of the team do?

We heard in Dr. Rappaport‘s interview last month on People: the Different and Difficult the importance of “knowing thyself” and an affirmation that labeling never really helps in the long-run. He said, “In being reductionistic (oversimplifying the reality), we miss the nuances of what is occurring—and, in particular, how we might be a factor in the very issue we are raising.”

So, in my example above, I would need to back away and look at the full picture, including why I don’t assert myself and recapture the agenda. Or, why I need to keep to the agenda (assuming some of the items raised by Jill are actually important).

Personality Characteristics Most Difficult for You

On May 14th at noon ET, I will conduct the second interview with Dr. Rappaport with a focus on one classic difficult personality type. For example, the passive-aggressive, the control-freak, the narcissist, etc. We’re going to explore the range of behaviors and ways to think about those patterns of action. Ultimately, we want to find some ways to create a different dance–building in the idea that we have to look at ourselves, too.

So, my question is:

What are the difficult characteristics for you? Comment below (no names please) and what happens that makes you a little nuts with your difficult people.

And, have a remarkable Monday!