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Difficult People - Why do they do that?

31 Jul 2016 11:39 AM | Anonymous

You have seen them.  They are the people that always have a different opinion.   They know the ONLY way to do something.  They don't want to even consider another way.  We have all worked with them.   Everyone wants to know how do we deal with that type of person? 

Before you can deal with that type of person, you need to look at why do they take that hard stance?    What is it that makes them feel that they are right?

Generally, people take a difficult stance for one or more of the following reasons:


  1. They experienced a similar situation before that was not successful and are convinced this will not be successful either so why are you wasting my time.
  2. They don't have enough "context" information to see the big picture.  Their scope of knowledge is only a portion of the entire problem, situation or project.
  3. They may have some personal issues that they are dealing with that prevent them from fully participating.  
  4. They are afraid that they will appear weak among their peers and reports.  They have a need to always be right. 
  5. They are afraid of failure.  If you don't do it my way it won't work and then I will be responsible anyway. 

These are just a few of the real reasons that people behave in a difficult manner.   I believe there are underlying issues for most people when they behave in this way.  Your meetings need to be structured to mitigate these behaviors.   You may not be able to prevent them all but you can certainly start to establish a process to reduce them.  Here are just a few suggestions. 

  1. Be sure that the people you have in the meeting are there for a reason.  Don't invite everyone.  Invite only those that need to participate.  If you have a group of people that simply need to be "in the know" send them a memo.   Otherwise, you will be wasting time. 
  2. Let the group share what they feel the desired outcome of the meeting should be.  What would they consider "success" of the meeting.  Each person may have a totally different idea of why they are even at the meeting.  
  3. When you see bad behavior do something.   Move around the room, go stand by the person who is having the side conversation. They will stop. 
  4. Be sure you have enough small group discussions built into the meeting so that they have a chance to share information with their neighbors. 
  5. Have a defined, interesting and engaging agenda and discussion.   If the participants at the meeting are able to check their email while in the meeting, you have room to improve your meeting and agenda planning.  Participants should not be interested in checking their email ( unless they are on call or in need) and should be drawn to the meeting. They should know that they are a part of the meeting and their voices and input is important.  

One of skills that is growing in demand is "facilitation" skills.  To be adapt at designing and facilitating meetings takes training and research.  ICA-USA and ICA-Associates, Canada have spent decades developing facilitation training based on successful implementation of those methods.   Consider taking one of the two upcoming classes offered by ICA-USA and ICA-Canada.  ICA-USA  ToP TM Facilitation Methods will show you two methods (Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop) and one process ( Action Planning).   The ICA-Canada class will show you how to determine the "right" people to have in the room, develop agendas,  room set up, flip chart tips , 72 activities to use in your meetings and how to deal with difficult people.   

More information on the "Meetings That Work" course from ICA Associates of Canada can be found at

For information on offerings in the Florida area, visit our training page on this website at Face-to-Face

Dougherty, Inc.
2388 SE 17th Terr., Homestead, Fl  33035
Phone:  888-400-1029  Email:

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