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Dealing With People You Cant Stand

Updated 2009-02-26 17:05

"Dealing With People You Can't Stand:
How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst"
by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner,
McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1994 (ISBN=0-07-007838-6).

General Coping Strategies

Stay and do nothingSuffer. Complain to others who can't change the situation.
Vote with your feetWalk away. Not all situations are resolvable. Discretion is the better part of valor. "You're nobody's victim without your permission."
Change your attitude about your difficult personSee and hear them differently. Feel different around them.
Change your behaviorWhat you do can bring out the best or worst in others. Take charge of an unpleasant situation and redirect it to a worthwhile result.


IntentDetails and Potential Pitfalls if Intent is Thwarted
Get the Task DoneAggressive and Task-Focused
Get the Task RightPassive and Task-Focused
Get Along with PeoplePassive and People-Focused
Get Appreciation from PeopleAggressive and People-Focused
Get the Task DoneControlling, Pushing Ahead.
Get the Task RightPerfectionist, Flaw-Finding.
Get Along with PeopleApproval-Seeking, Self-Sacrificing.
Get Appreciation from PeopleAttention-Getting.
Get the Task DoneSniper, Tank, Know-It-All
Get the Task RightWhiner, No Person, Nothing Person
Get Along with PeopleNothing Person, Maybe person, Yes person
Get Appreciation from PeopleThink-They-Know-It-All, Sniper, Grenade

Surviving Through Skillful Communication

Prevent Conflicts and Resolve Problems Before They Get Out of Hand


From Conflict to CooperationBlending and Redirecting: Blend nonverbally with body and facial expressions. Blend vocally with volume and speed.
Listen to UnderstandPeople want to be heard and understood.
Reach a Deeper UnderstandingIdentify positive intent and highly valued criteria.
Speak to Be UnderstoodMonitor your tone of voice, state your positive intent, tactfully interrupt interruptions, tell your truth, be ready to listen, stay flexible.
Get What You Project and ExpectAssume the best, give the benefit of the doubt. Appreciate criticism: thanking people for it can end the criticism more quickly than fighting it can.


From Conflict to CooperationBlend: reduce the differences, meet on common ground, build rapport. Redirect: use rapport to change the trajectory to a worthwhile outcome.
Listen to UnderstandBlend visibly and audibly. Backtrack some of their own words. Clarify their meaning, intent, and criteria. Summarize what you've heard. Confirm to find out if you got it right.
Reach a Deeper UnderstandingDetermine what they value most: "Get the Task Done", "Get the Task Right", "Get Along with People", or "Get Appreciation from People", then acknowledge this and try to present things from within their value system.
Speak to Be UnderstoodBe honest in a way that builds someone up rather than tearing them down, use "I" language, be specific about the problem behavior, show them how their behavior is self-defeating, suggest new behaviors or options.
Get What You Project and ExpectPygmalian Power: To some degree, like a self-fulfulling prophecy, people rise or fall to the level of other people's expectations. Instead of saying "That's the problem with you. You never ...", say "That's not like you! You're capable of ...". Praise positive behavior by saying "That's one of the things I like about you. You ....".

The 10 Most Unwanted List

The TankPushy and ruthless, load and forceful, or with the quiet intensity and surgical precision of a laser, this person assumes that the end justifies the means. Expect no mercy.
The SniperThis covert operator identifies your weaknesses and uses them against you, through sabotage behind your back or well-aimed putdowns in front of the crowd.
The GrenadeWhen they blow their tops, they're unable to stop, and shrapnel hits everyone in range. Then the smoke clears, the dust settles, and the cycle begins building to a critical mass again.
The Know-It-AllThis person knows 98 percent of anything. Just ask! They will tell you what they know - for hours at a time - but won't take a second to listen to your clearly inferior ideas.
The Think-They-Know-It-AllThis character doesn't know much, but doesn't let that get in the way. Exaggerating, bragging, misleading, and distracting, these legends-in-their-own-minds pull you off track.
The Yes PersonQuick to agree, slow to deliver, this person leaves a trail of unkept commitments and broken promises. Though they please no one, this person overcommits to please!
The Maybe PersonWhen faced with a crucial decision, they keep putting it off until it's too late. But there comes a point when the decision makes itself. Then it's nobody's default but their own.
The Nothing PersonYou won't know what's going on because they tell you nothing! No verbal feedback. No nonverbal feedback. They seal their mouths and stare past you as if you're not there.
The No PersonThey say that, "What goes up must come down." And what comes down must never be allowed to get back up again. Doleful and discouraging, they drive others to despair.
The WhinerThere's a plan for their lives, but they're not in it. Instead, they wallow in their woe, complaining incessantly, and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.


The TankConfrontational, pointed, and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior.
The SniperWhether through rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes, making you look foolish is their specialty.
The GrenadeAfter a brief period of calm, they explode into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances.
The Know-It-AllSeldom in doubt, they have a low tolerance for correction and contradiction. If something goes wrong, however, they will speak with the same authority about who's to blame - you!
The Think-They-Know-It-AllThey can't fool all the people all of the time, but they can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time - all for the sake of getting some attention.
The Yes PersonIn an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, they agree without thinking things through. They react to the latest demands on their time by forgetting prior commitments, and overcommit until they have no time for themselves. Then they become resentful.
The Maybe PersonIn a moment of decision, they procastinate in the hope that a better choice will present itself. Sadly, with most decisions, there comes a point when it is too little, too late, and the decision makes itself.
The Nothing PersonGenerally passive but could be Task-Focused or People-Focused. They might seem to withdraw from conflict, but inside they can be a boiling cauldron of simmering hostility that occasionally boils over. May abuse inanimate objects rather than damaging others with their hostility.
The No PersonMore deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable. Disguised as a mild mannered normal person, they fight a never ending battle for futility, hopelessness, and despair.
The WhinerThey feel helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world. Their standard is perfection, and no one and nothing measures up to it. But misery loves company, so they bring their problems to you. Offering solutions makes you bad company, so their compaining escalates.


TypeGoal and Action Plan for dealing with them
The TankCommand respect: Hold your ground, interrupt the attack, quickly backtrack to their main point, aim for the bottom line and fire! Peace with honor.
The SniperBring them out of hiding: Stop, look, backtrack, use searchlight questions, use tank strategy if needed, go on a grievance patrol, suggest a civil future.
The GrenadeTake control of the situation: Get their attention, aim for the heart, reduce intensity, time off for good behavior. Ask them what makes them mad.
The Know-It-AllOpen their mind to new information and ideas: Be prepared and know your stuff, backtrack respectfully, blend with doubts and desires, present your views indirectly, turn them into mentors.
The Think-They-Know-It-AllGive their bad ideas the hook: Give them a little attention, clarify for specifics, tell it like it is, give them a break, break the cycle.
The Yes PersonGet commitments you can count on: Make it safe to be honest, talk honestly, help them learn to plan, ensure commitment, strengthen the relationship.
The Maybe PersonHelp them learn to think decisively: Establish a comfort zone, surface conflicts, clarify options, use a decision-making system, reassure then ensure follow through, strengthen the relationship.
The Nothing PersonPersuade them to talk: Plan enough time, ask open-ended questions expectantly, lighten it up, guess, show the future.
The No PersonTransition to problem solving: Go with the flow, use them as a resource, leave the door open, go for the polarity response, acknowledge their good intent.
The WhinerForm a problem-solving alliance: Listen for the main points, interrupt and get specific, shift the focus to solutions, show them the future, draw the line.