Using Your Emotional Intelligence to Deal with Difficult People

Emotions Can Be Hard To Manage

Over the years I have educated and persuaded people to consider the importance of using their emotional intelligence, or what we call EQ, for short. The first response that I often get is “I want to keep emotions out of this situation”. I do understand this because emotions can be hard to manage, especially those uncomfortable ones like anger and frustration. However, it is impossible… because emotions are with us all the time. We have emotions every second of every day. The key is to be aware of them and manage them so they don’t get in the way of what you want to happen. The better able we are to manage our emotions, the more likely we can interact with others and the world around us to get the impact that we want. Blocking awareness of how we are feeling rarely helps us achieve our goals.

Emotions Drive People

Emotions drive people and people drive performance. Leaders around the world that understand the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership and the positive impact that it can have on employees reap the benefits. Those EQ leaders that can create positive work environments and inspire people to attain targeted goals see great results from increased sales and revenue, to increased efficiency in operations, and the list goes on.

Controlling Your Emotions Will Keep You Focused 

Emotions are contagious. Leaders set the whole climate of the organization and it begins at the top with the CEO or President and works its way down. If you have a leader who is constantly agitated or hostile, employees will spend more time dealing with the anxiety and tension from having to manage that leaders’ emotions and its impact on them- rather than focusing on their work, thus lowering productivity.

Develop Employees Through Training & Coaching

Today leadership is responsible for developing employees through training and coaching. The best leaders are those that develop the best in people. They create positive feelings and energy that enable their employees to grow and perform.

So, what is emotional intelligence? It is:

  • Being smart about emotions
  • Managing your emotions
  • Managing others’ emotions
  • Using them to reach your goals and/or create the impact you want

It is not IQ or cognitive intelligence. It is not personality. Emotional intelligence are competencies that are more fluid and dynamic. Research shows emotional intelligence can be improved at any age.

Emotional Intelligence is a process which involves:

  1. Being motivated to change and grow.
  2. An assessment of what needs to be improved.
  3. Practice: Setting up and implementing action steps on a daily basis so that the targeted behaviors become a habit with time.
  4. Coaching/Training which can bring accelerated growth.

How To Access Our Emotional Intelligence

How do we access our emotional intelligence? The four main components are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Self-awareness is the foundation from which the other skills build.

We can’t manage our emotions if we are not aware of them. First, we have to identify the physical cues that tell us we are experiencing a feeling, label the feeling, and then seek to understand the message that it is sending. Emotions are autonomic responses – they tell us to pay attention and alert us to the situation at hand. Once we are aware of what is going on (self-awareness), we can then respond. The goal is to respond in an effective way by reflecting on our options and choosing how to proceed (self-management).

Manage Your Emotions To Better Manage Others’ Emotions

Once we can manage our emotions and actions, we can better manage others’ emotions and behavior. Our increased understanding of others, the situation, and environment, or, what we call our social awareness, provides us information and gives us options or choices on how to respond. How we respond is the last component of emotional intelligence which we call relationship management or social skills.

Lacking EQ or not fully utilizing your EQ impacts your relationships at work and at home. We deal with all kinds of people every day – some of them more difficult than others. Sometimes we find people with challenging personality traits. Your EQ can help you interact with difficult people in a way that keeps you sane and gives you the best chance of a successful interaction or to achieve the outcome that you want.

One common strategy for dealing with difficult people: Use your EQ and be aware of your emotions, manage them, recognize the behavior pattern that the person is displaying and apply a strategy to deal with them effectively.

The Smartest Person In The Room

Let’s start with those people who think they know everything, the know-it-alls. They act as if they are the “Smartest Person in the Room”. We all work with them and they can make us feel inadequate or dumb. We can manage them by first noting our emotions. We can ask ourselves, “How is their behavior making me feel?” Once we understand the “personality behavior” that we are reacting to, we can respond more objectively to manage the “behavior”. We need to make sure our position is accurate. Then we can ask them to explain their position first and we need to acknowledge their ideas. Next, we can disagree with their facts, and focus on the information and not on the person. Provide them data and examples if possible. If this does not work, we may need to pull in a third person to help.

The Constant Talkers

What about those people who are “Constant Talkers” that don’t let you get a word in the conversation? They drain our energy as we listen. These people can be challenging. We may find ourselves blocking their chatter out and letting our mind ramble. For me, I have to be patient and remind myself to be kind and listen. We can again access our self-talk…those messages or tapes we play in our head and tell ourselves, “Be patient!” We can also manage the conversation by choosing to speak up and try to interject into the conversation relevant information. I try to steer the interaction in a more mutual direction. It might mean gently interrupting them. I may use humor to allow some pauses or I might say something like… “I want to tell you about “X” whenever you are done sharing about “Y”. It shows them that I am listening and have things I want to talk about too. Communication and conversation should be like a tennis match, back and forth, 50/50 to be most effective.

The Constant Complainers

How about those “Constant Complainers”? These kinds of people drain your energy too because we often want to try to convince them to think differently. Know that we will not change or influence their thoughts and behavior pattern. It has been ingrained throughout their life. One strategy I recommend: Listen attentively without interrupting. Then acknowledge the importance of what they are saying. From here, try to focus in and pin them down on the facts. Do not agree nor apologize. We want to use empathy statements and insist on problem-solving together, again staying focused on the issue. Hopefully they will choose to engage but be ready if they do not.

The Aggressive People

How about those aggressive people who bully or verbally attack? With these people it is natural for us to try to protect ourselves and withdraw. Sometimes we should retreat and prepare a response for another day when we are ready, mentally prepared, or the situation feels safer. Usually, to manage these people, we first have to feel confident that we can manage them. The goal is to assert ourselves by expressing our rights and needs and stand up to them. Do not worry about politeness. Get their attention. Sit down, stand up and give them solid eye contact, and state your opinions forcefully and with confidence. We want them to understand that we are determined to work this out, to do what is right, etc. and that we won’t just give in. Showing strength that we will not be bullied often works but reflect on each situation and decide what works best. Whatever the situation, using our EQ increases our chances of success.

For information on emotional intelligence training or executive coaching, please contact us.