Loving Difficult People – Part Two

There are several types of difficult people, and it’s helpful to identify their common traits in order to learn how to deal with them effectively. As we review these traits remember that you can choose how to react to them. The effect of difficult relationships — whether they make us or break us — is determined not by the treatment we receive but by how we respond to it.

Take a look at the SERMAN TANK personality. This label may bring to mind a person who runs over everything and anything that is in the way. These people have a tendency to intimidate others because of their “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” attitude. They intimidate through their force and power; they’re behaviour is aggressive and even hostile. Because of the Sherman Tank’s insensitivity, people tend to battle with them. It is difficult to sit down and reason or rationalize with “tanks.”

Don’t lose hope; there is a strategy for dealing with the Sherman Tanks of life.

First consider this person’s influence as well as the issue at stake. How important is the point being fought over, and how many people are being influenced by the “tank?” If the issue could have a direct, negative effect on others within the organization or group involved, it is probably worth fighting over. But if it an insignificant issue or a matter of pride, it’s not worth the battle. When crucial issues arise, however, you must stand up to this personality. True, there is no easy way around these people. Be direct, because they probably don’t understand tactfulness. Look at them face to face and confront the specific issues at hand. Unfortunately these people cause more pain than any of the other difficult personality types because they feel little pain themselves. As a result, they can afford to be unreasonable. What adds to the burden of dealing with these people is that, with their power to intimidate, they can pull together many allies. 

Another difficult personality with whom we call come in contact with is the SPACE CADET. These people live in their own world, walking to the beat of a different drummer. They usually do not respond to normal motivation techniques. Frustration is the overwhelming feeling you get when working with this type of person. And, you will quickly learn you should not be greatly influenced by this person’s comments and feedback. Probably the people you know who fall into this category, you have labeled ‘weird.’

Consider these guidelines when working with a SPACE CADET:

    • Don’t evaluate your leadership or relational skills by the Space Cadet’s response. In fact, don’t even ask his or her opinion about something because you will get an off-the-wall answer. Space Cadets are not good sounding boards.
    • It’s not a good idea to place a Space Cadet in a ‘team ministry’ position. When you need a group of individuals to pull together to accomplish a goal, the Space Cadet has difficulty pulling with other people in the same direction.
    • Don’t place Space Cadets in positions of leadership because they won’t be able to determine the heartbeat of others.
    • Don’t write your Space Cadet friend off as a lost cause, though. Search for the key to his or her uniqueness and seek to develop it. Many Space Cadets are extremely brilliant and creative; they have much to offer if you put them in the right spot. They work best when they work alone, so find an area in which they’re interested and give them space to dream and create. 

The VOLCANO is an explosive, unpredictable type of person who tends to be unapproachable. How do we treat them? Should we walk around them softly, or test the waters and see what kind of a day they are having? It’s difficult to relax around them because we don’t know when the heat is about to rise. Just as the Space cadet causes frustration, the VOCANO causes tension. Those who have to work with this person can never relax; they never know what might set him or her off. It is like having to walk on egg-shells all day. 

How should we handle VOLCANOES when they blow up? Calmness is the key. Remove them from the crowd and remain calm yourself. They don’t need an audience, and you are better off to keep your blood pressure down. Once you have them alone, let them vent steam. Allow them to blow as hard and as long as necessary; let them get it all out. Don’t try to interrupt because they won’t be hearing you. In an attempt to get the story straight, you may need to go back and ask them to repeat some details. Minimize any exaggeration and remove any hearsay that has mingled in so you can deal with the facts and not the emotion. Then provide a soft, clear answer concerning the situation. Finally, hold these people accountable for the things they say and the people they harm.