13 Effective Methods for Coping With Difficult Peers

Dealing with difficult peers is a much easier thing to do away from the workplace. The first instinct many of us have to deal with this sort of social issue is to escape. However, running away from a problem like this can end up causing far more trouble than simply facing up to it. This means you need a good approach in mind in order to better handle the situation.
Young entrepreneurs and team leaders can have a particularly hard time with this kind of challenge, as they need to be able to keep communication channels open, even with the most troublesome peers. To find out what kinds of approaches work well, members of Young Entrepreneur Council, below, offer their suggestions on how people can deal with their difficult peers head-on, either within the organization they work with or outside at a public event. Here is what they advise:

1. Kill’em With Kindness

I always go out of my way to treat everyone with kindness, but I especially keep this in mind when I come across someone who has been difficult to work with. My hope is that my positivity will rub off on them at some point if I maintain my focus on kindness. – Serenity Gibbons, NAACP

2. Don’t Overreact

When faced with difficult peers, we get the urge to express exactly how we feel. The problem is that we are often feeling more high-strung than usual, so our reaction may be over the top. You have to stop and think before you speak. Overreacting will not help make your case or convince difficult people to become compliant. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. Protect Your Energy

Energy is contagious. For some, being around a negative, difficult person can be draining. If you work with someone like this, protect your energy, be solution-oriented, and keep things professional. Difficult people will try to make their issues your issues, so it is important to define the problem and not take ownership of more than you need to (i.e. their terrible attitude is not your problem). – Chelsea Rivera, Honest Paws

4. Strategize Your Encounters

If there is someone you don’t enjoy being around, go into events that they will be at with a game plan. If you can arrange to not encounter them, do so. If it is inevitable, create times where you can be alone. The last thing you want is for that frustration to build and for you to erupt, making you look like the more difficult one. – Colbey Pfund, LFNT Distribution

5. Develop a Relationship Based on Respect

A good way to deal with difficult peers is to establish a relationship based on respect and professionalism. Both peers can have clear in their mind that they don’t need to be friends, but they can work together based on mutual respect, because above all, they are professionals and they believe in the company’s purpose and in their career. – Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

6. Keep It Short

Whenever I encounter someone whom I had a difficult relationship with in the past, I will keep my interaction very short (usually shorter than 10 seconds). This shows civility in a public forum without being bogged down or rehashing the past. I will say, “Hello, it’s nice to see you” and move on. It’s that simple. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

7. Change Your Perspective

One of the best ways to handle difficult peers is to change your perspective. You can’t control others, but you can control your interpretation and response to others. Try to stop viewing these particular peers as “difficult” and start seeing them as simply “different.” These peers do not see the world the same as you, nor do they show up in the world the same way, and that’s OK! – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

8. Get a Second Opinion

If it’s a persistent problem, it might be time to get the opinion of someone else. Whether that’s a colleague or loved one, it can help to gain someone else’s perspective so you know where you stand. It’s likely they’ll say something that makes you think differently or changes your point of view, which can help you navigate the situation professionally. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

9. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Many interoffice conflicts are born from assumptions or simple misunderstandings. The easiest way to move through this is to view the situation from their side. What could they possibly see, think or experience from their position and role? When you ask yourself this question, it becomes easier to find commonalities and understanding compassion. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

10. Compliment and Ask a Positive Question

When I encounter difficult people, I compliment them about something they chose and then ask them a “what do you love most about …” question. For example, “I love how you paired those earrings with that shirt! What do you love most about fashion?” I’ve found this disarms them and shifts the conversation to something positive. Doing this on a regular basis improves the relationship greatly. – Monica Snyder, Birdsong

11. Find Guidance From Friends or Mentors

Everyone has dealt with a difficult colleague during some point in their career. I found that discussing my challenge with friends or mentors allows me to see things from a different angle. It allows me to get an unbiased opinion and leads to offering different suggestions on how to handle any situation with a challenging peer. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

12. Be Respectful But Direct

When dealing with difficult peers, be respectful, but also direct and to the point. Don’t let conversations get off-track, keep them strictly about business. Try to limit communication as well whenever possible, although not to the point to where your productivity is affected. Be polite but brief whenever possible. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

13. Breathe Deeply

When you open your mouth, let it be to breathe in a deep, calming breath, rather than launch a verbal assault on the person you take issue with. If you’re aiming to “take the high ground,” do so through measured responses, not emotional outbursts. If this person is obstructing your work output, then it is time to take the issue to a third-party mediator. – Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva

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