How to win over "difficult" people at work | Noomi Natan | Skillshare

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How to win over "difficult" people at work

teacher avatar Noomi Natan, Executive Coach

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction 1

    • 2. Why are people difficult class project

    • 3. What can you appreciate about that person

    • 4. Biases and loyalties

    • 5. Clearing mixed judgment

    • 6. Our need to fit multiple levels of hierarchy

    • 7. The voice of the voiceless

    • 8. FInal words of advice

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About This Class

Don’t you just hate those difficult people you have to work with?

“Difficult” people can drain the life out of you, and make you want to quit your business, leave your job or just run away. It might be your supplier, your boss, a team member, colleague.

Either way you’re stuck with them for a while and need to make the best of the relationship.

So let’s look at what you can do.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • What it is that make people “difficult”
  • What the “difficult” person needs and how to give it to them in a way that feels good to both of you
  • A powerful exercise to do before a meeting with a “difficult” person to make sure the meeting flows better
  • How to turn “difficult” relationships into smooth-working partnerships

No prior skills needed.


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Noomi Natan

Executive Coach


Executive Coach, Courage-Catalyst, Podcaster @ Leadership Behind the Scenes, Leadership Consultant, Creator of the Online Course Role Model Your Way, Team-Trust-Builder, Wife and Mother.

I am an executive coach and am absolutely love my work. For the 12plus years I have had the pleasure of working with highly ambitious leaders who really want to make a difference with their leadership and their work. I have worked with entrepreneurs and individuals as well as leaders in organzations such as LEGO Education, LEGO House, NBCUniversal, Boots, Tesco, Barclays Wealth, British Gas, Husky, BBC Studios,  and Mars. I am also a podcaster and publish high-value leadership and personal development content at Leadership Behind the Scenes which you can listen to in all your favourite podca... See full profile

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1. Introduction 1: Hey, do you? You have to deal with difficult person that work. Maybe it's your colleague. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe you are their boss. Or maybe it's a supplier. It doesn't really matter who it ISS because it's draining. It can take all the fun out of work. Teoh have to deal with someone difficult. And let's be frank here. It can ruin your results. It can ruin your deliverables, so I want to help you. For the last decade, I have coached leaders in more than 15 countries on how to overcome the blocks to performance. And some of the companies have coach leaders within. You know, you've heard of its companies like Lego Education, Nbcuniversal, Morris Boots, Tesco. The list goes on, and I have coached some of those so called difficult people have coach. Countless leaders also had to deal with difficult people, so I'm going to trigger to you that really works. The prerequisite for this class is simple. All you've got to do is the human, because I'll tell you a secret this class, although we'll be talking about organizations if you find that in your personal life you have people you find difficult well, everything we're working on here who work with them to. So before we jump in, I want to leave you with a question. What if What if no one is really being difficult? What if there is a good reason, at least from the difficult person's point of view for why they are being difficult? Hold that question for a moment. Can't wait to jump in with you and share some of my best coaching chips that really works. Let's get started. 2. Why are people difficult class project: No one wakes up in the morning thinking I'm gonna be a difficult person. I really want to make everyone's live miserable. I want to make every once work really difficult. Really. You know, no one wakes up thinking that you know what? They wake up thinking. They wake up thinking there is something really important here, and I'm going to stand up for it. They were got thinking. No one's listening to me. I'm sick of this. I want respect. I want them to listen. I'm gonna keep shouting this until they hear me. They wake up thinking I'm being treated unfairly. I need something to change that kind of stuff. That's what they wake up thinking. And that's what we're going to dig deeper into in this class. But before we go any further, I have to share some bad news with you because the thing is this class in this class, you and I, we cannot change those other people. I wish we could, but that's not how it works. What we can do is we can change how you see those difficult people, and we can change how you show up how you show up in that relationship and how you act and that will shift those relationships. There is gold dust in this course of some of the best coaching tricks, and I want you as a class project to go along, follow the exercises, do them. You might find that just one exercise. It's all it takes. Teoh. Shift that relationship and you might find you need to do all of them. But at the end, I want you to upload as a class project. Tell us which one was your favorite exercise and what was your Ah ha. And you could do that as a text file. You could do that. It's video and audio. Whatever format works for you. But tell us which one was your favorite exercise and what was your ah ha? 3. What can you appreciate about that person: I want you for a moment to think about that difficult person. Think about how you feel about them. Think about how you show up to meetings with them. Think about how you email them. Then think about someone you love working with. Think about how you feel about that person. Think about how you show up to meetings with them and how you email that person. Notice the difference. Got it right. There's a difference. And this is time to take responsibility for your part off their interaction because difficult people means difficult relationships. But how you show up impact that relationship. So here's what people always say to me when I'm coaching them on difficult relationships, they say, I really don't like that person. But don't worry, no me, Don't worry. I I don't tell them to the face. And I say, Well, maybe you don't tell them with words, but for sure you are telling them in how you show up in your attitude and you know this right? You know, when other people you don't really get a funny vibe of them when you don't really like me or this isn't, you know like I don't think we're jelling here, right? You feel feel it from from their interactions, Even if they don't say it with words. So he has to exercise. I give my clients when they say this. And I tell you what, This one works every time. And every time I give it, people hate it. They're like, don't make me do this. But the brave ones to do it, they come back to me, you know, the next session, like, OK, things shifted. Right. So here's exercise. I want you to make a list of everything you appreciate about this difficult person yet. That's it. And you might go What? There is nothing. Nothing I like about this person. Well, as I always say to my clients, start with. Start with the easiest point. You know, maybe maybe, like their their eye color. Maybe you find that the way they talk about their Children, um, is, you know, is nice enough. Maybe you, uh, like the same kind of sport is them so often? I start with non work related stuff, you know, see if you can like something about them as a person and then go to other places, like had a client recently who said about their difficult person. Well, my difficult person clears their inbox every single day. I really admire that. So see, what can you appreciate or admire about that person and really challenge yourself over the silly things first, if you have to and then look at look at what you can appreciate about them, the longer the list and the more you really look at that, the bed of the effect. So spend some time go through. Really make that appreciation list about that person and then notice when you show up with that being active in how you think about that person, look at this list before your next meeting or before you next, Send them an email. Look at what you can appreciate about them, and I promise you that relationship will start shifting. 4. Biases and loyalties: What do you know about you're a difficult person and their education, their industry background, their history with the organization you're working with? What do you know about them? Because it tell you Watts, if you can understand more about why they think how they think and what their biases are, you'll get so much further with them. So here's the thing, right, Someone who is trained as an accountant. We'll have very different biases than someone whose trained as a you know who's first degree was a fine fine arts degree, right? They will see the world differently. They make sense of things differently. It might work in the same company. They might even do similar things now because they might have shifted what they're doing. But their formative years will have shaped the way that they approach things. Likewise, someone who didn't study further education, higher education will also have a bias will also have certain things that they will rub up against maybe the anti anything that seems vaguely academic. So we all have biases, I have biases, you have biases. We all have certain principles also that were more loyal to than others. And so this is why you want to get curious, make a brainstorm and mind map and list. However you like Teoh process information about everything you know about this person in terms off what's let them to the point now. Today, you know that their educational background, their industry background, their history as a set with the current project anything you're working with them on, because then you might understand why they're insisting of certain things. Why are they insisting on not giving up on something regarding the customer experience? It might be because they have seen it change three times already, and they have been around the block 10 years longer than you. And maybe that's why they're stubborn. It doesn't mean they're right. Of course, this is not about making the other person right, but it gives you an insight into why they're thinking what they are thinking. That if you can start understanding, you know, why are they so attached to the numbers balancing? Because they're missing the important bit they're missing. They're missing the fact that this is about the customer experience, and if the customers don't like what they're getting, it doesn't matter that the numbers balance because there will be no numbers coming in. Right? So you really got to get curious about this. And then once you have some kind of insight, speak to that. When you hang out with the person, that means appreciate eight where they're coming from. So again, you don't have to agree. But what you can, what you can do when you're next time here than be stopping about something difficult about something you can say to them? Can I just check? I think this is you protecting the value off integrity of the company. Oh, can I just check? I'm guessing this is because you have, you know, been in the industry for 20 years and you've seen another stuff. Tell me what you've seen and tell me why you've fooled this opinion. Because as you dig deeper and as you're appreciative off their biases and why they think what they think, you're gonna start forming a different relationship with that person. So bring out the curiosity, do a little research. It might only take you five minutes because you probably know a lot already about this person and then see how things that shifting 5. Clearing mixed judgment: often with difficult people refined that we have a lot of very strong emotions and sometimes even mixed emotions. And clearly it's getting in the way because you would not be spending any time on thinking about how to change this personal this relationship. If it wasn't that you need something from this relationship. I mean, if this was a person you could totally ignore, you would not be listening and watching to this class. So you need something. And usually when you feel this person is very difficult, your judgment is getting clouded. Your way of showing up is not clean and pure and helpful. So this next exercise will really help you separate out and get clear so that you can show up in a way that's useful now. This require some chairs. So very often when I coach my clients, they are sitting on the other end in a conference location in a conference room so they have lots of lots of chairs. And if you're not in a conference room right now, I'm sure even if you're at your you know wherever it wherever you are, if you're getting your home, I'm sure you have a few chairs available, so you need a least two chairs for this to work. So what do you want to do is you want to pick the one cheer as you personally. And as you sit down in the chair, I want you to look across at the other person, look across that difficult person and see how you feel when you are you personally. How do you feel? What do you think? Why do you want to do right? All that stuff, you know, be be completely uncensored. Now, the second chair is gonna be your role. So when you move to the second chair, you're gonna be your role now that might be business owner. Or you might have a specific title in the business. Um, you know, some kind of leadership title or, you know, whatever your titlists doesn't matter. But when you move to that rolled, you're just the marketing director, just the business owner, and you leave your personal feelings behind, because when you get to that cheer, I want you to look at the person and see from the business perspective from the perspective off your role. Why do you think about that person How do you feel about them from that chair? And what do you want from them from that chair? Now, almost every time. Then, when people move into that second chair of role, usually it's much more clear what they want to do, what they need to do. There's a lot less emotion in the role chair, and this is something that will help you so much in the world of business and in the world of leadership. If you can remember that you are not your role on either other people, right, that's the point. So you will not your role and so you can even play with it. And imagine this person sitting in just their role rather than their personal chair. Right? So look at it and you actually have to move chair because something happened as you sit in the one show your personal chair and then you move to the role chair. So really, don't just listen to me, actually do it. Pause and do it and check it out. Now I'm going to give you an advanced option, because if this doesn't feel like it's quiet enough, then you can have 1/3 chair now the third year, you need to choose specifically for your context. But it could be, you know, seeing it from the end. Customer perspectives trying to put yourself in the shoes off the end customer and look at the difficult person. Or it could be being the CEO of your Not that the top bus in the company trying to sit from that perspective. It could be being market trends, you know, play around with what the third share could be. But that could be really, really helpful to have 1/3 chair also so, basically their dearest to be clean. So each chair only gives one viewpoint speaks from one place. I want you to really do this, because when you do, you will get insights. So I do this so often with my clients. Often, they then realise that a lot of what they're feeling about this difficult person comes from personal stuff. You know, it's a history that have that person often, or that person reminds, reminds them off someone or something, and it really buckles them every time they have to deal with this person, and it's, you know, something specific about the way they speak or the way they roll their eyes or the way the phrase things. But when you can't get clean and go, actually my role Is this what I need from that person? And sometimes the answer is, then, um, you know, Hey, well, I'll just wait for them and I'll went with what they can provide for the role, and I'll speak to them in a different way. And sometimes, you know, cause this also really helps when you've had a lot of difficulty motion where you maybe feel sorry for the person than therefore, you're not making the tough business assisting you need to make well, usually at that point you go. OK, well, from the point of the business, I need to let this person go. Then you can go back, collect the human concern from the personal chair. Sometimes it's a friend share even and then, you know, collect the human human side of it from the other chairs but often need to act from the place off the role because the truth ISS. That's what you're being paid to do. And this doesn't matter whether you're in business for yourself or in a job and If you don't really like to act from the place of the role, well, then you probably need to look around for another job because, as I said, that's what you paid to do. 6. Our need to fit multiple levels of hierarchy: I want to tell you about a time when I was a difficult person, I showed up to a course where I really wanted to be. I had stretched way beyond my financial comfort zone to be there, and still I couldn't hear a thing that teachers that I was obnoxious and group work. I was telling the other people how to do things, how they were doing things wrong. There was no collaboration from me. So why was it being difficult to understand, as you first have to understand something about human beings and our development so historically were not wired to survive alone? I mean human beings. We need our group, our drive to guarantee survival, even nowadays, a human being who doesn't get enough connection or touch they go psychopath, sociopath. I don't know. It's not a good thing, right? We need are a connection with other human beings. And so the first thing we do when we show up in a new group at a party at a workplace, we try to figure out how do I fit and my older than these people younger than these people and my smarter, less smart, more educated, less educated, more cool, less cool, right? It seems of official. But we all do it and it isn't superficial. It's survival because we need to find our place, that what guaranteed our survival through hundreds of thousands of years, finding our place in our tribe. And it's important for the whole tribe that everyone's in the right place in a tribe. You want the strong people leading the pack. You want them to defend and lead. And he won the week of people to be protected and to be in other supporting roles. Nowadays, an organization, of course, it's a lot more complicated isn't just about physical strength. There are not more hierarchies to pay attention to. So let's go back for a second and talk about me and why I was being difficult. See, I was by far the youngest in the group. So on the hierarchy of age, I waas the lowest ranking an age. You know, you can sort of get a gauge of age when you look at people's faces, and I think I look even younger than I am, so that was quite obvious. But what wasn't obvious was my experience. I already had a qualification on the topic of the course, and most of the other people in the group where complete novices and when you to this topic ? I was just there to get one more angle. So thankfully, my teacher was onto this and she came to me and she said, After a few days, Well, it seems that it's hard for you to find your place here in this group, and I said yes, and that didn't really shift anything. But what shifted things was when she publicly acknowledged So the whole group and she said , Well, I want you to know that normally already has a qualification on this topic and she knows a lot and really make good use of her and listen to her because she has a wealth of knowledge was like instant release. I could certainly hear what she was saying, and I could stop shouting about my experience because now everyone knew about it. I could just participate. So how is this relevant to you? Well, I want you to think about euro difficult person and think about the hierarchies that are relevant in that context, because very likely your person is ranking in hierarchy and isn't being acknowledged for it . So think about the following hierarchies, and I wanted to really sit down and look at this age. Who's older? Who's younger time served in this particular team and in this particular organization, you want to respect that time in a specific place. Industry specific experience, right? How long have they been in an industry specific skills? So how long have they been doing marketing or sales for? And sometimes, for example, someone might have 20 years experience in marketing, but only one year in pharmaceuticals because they used to work in professional services and they moved over. So most of us will be ranking or high up in some hierarchies and lower on other hierarchies . So that's the point here. You want to look at all these various hierarchies and look at where you ranking. Where's the other person ranking? And if there's other people involved, look at those two right, because when we're not acknowledged for where we're ranking for what we're bringing, we become obnoxious and difficult, just like I did because we're trying to show everyone Hey, I'm not in my right place here. I have things to bring to this group and you're not seeing it. I know it doesn't sound that nice when the difficult persons acting up, but essentially that's what's going on below the surface. So your job is to help this difficult person try and find their right place and you finding your right place in relation to them. So remember sitting down and acknowledging whose ranking and the different hierarchies isn't enough for things to shift. Often it requires a public acknowledgment, public show of respect and often fund of, you know, not just you and them, but several people. That's the whole point of pop IQ. This knowledge understanding the multiple levels of hierarchy and organizations really makes a difference. I don't know. We don't respect, for example, age, but it just is the fact that those that have lived more days have done exactly that. They have lived more days, and so they should be respected for that. And so as you start paying attention to those hierarchies and if you, for example, our young leader and therefore maybe also you have less time I spent in the company may be less experience in the industry, you might still be the boss But you have to lead with a different humility when you are not ranking in many of the hierarchies. So paying attention to this will make leading so much more sophisticated and more useful because at the end of the day, we might show up in our, you know, fancy jeans or a beautiful suits. Whatever you show up with at work doesn't matter. But at the end of the day, we're still evolutionary beings and finding are right place. That is what we're all during all the time. We want to figure out how do I fit here? So pay attention. Why is this person being difficult? What are you not seeing by the about the hierarchies here? 7. The voice of the voiceless: Here's one question and really wanted to ask, and this is particularly helpful if you haven't found your, you know, high. Yet you haven't found your shift yet. Ask yourself, Could this difficult person be representing something or speaking on behalf of something or someone that doesn't have a voice? So let me give you a few examples. Could this difficult person, for example, be speaking on behalf of those people that were just made redundant or speaking on behalf of those people that have suffered as a result? Off your company's products may be in the past, because sometimes they're representing something, this difficult person. It's beyond them. But they are voice, maybe consciously, often completely unconsciously, a voice to something or someone that cannot speak that is not sitting at the table. But it's important to be heard and what you're doing with your business or what you're involved with. You know, whoever it is that can't speak has been impacted. So ask yourself that question and then see what insights you get. What is it? Perhaps who is it that needs to be respected because again, if there is someone or something that isn't being respected, they'll be difficult 8. FInal words of advice: have you had any? Ah ha's yet. Are you looking at this person a little bit different? Because, remember, we cannot control other people. All we can do is take charge of how we see things, how we show up our attitude. That's the only thing that's really in your power. And so that's what we're working on as a result of how you see this person differently and how you show up differently the relationship shift and therefore this person won't feel so difficult, right? But it requires you to see them differently and for things to shift. Now, if you've been listening to all the exercises, but you haven't done any of them yet, go back, do them. This stuff works and you have to do it. It's not like mind magic. You have to do it for it to really work. But I want to give you a few things just to pay attention to. So one thing is sometimes difficult. People are people that not only I think are difficult, but lots of people. Everyone agrees this person is difficult now. If your difficult person, someone lots of people, agree it is difficult to work with this takes more energy to shift because you have to be courageous to think something different than everyone else, and it's much more difficult to really watch that. And what's the uphill battle you have to be going through and work at each exercise more and deeper to shift things? Okay, because you've got to give this person the benefit of the doubt that they can shift and that there is a good reason for why they're being difficult. They're not being difficult there, being stopping about something. They're protecting something. They're insisting on something right. So really, really, really watch how you might have put them in a box, and it's hard for them to get out and everyone around you might have put them in a box to. So the second thing I want you to remember is just because you've listened to this class and you've shifted doesn't mean the other personal shift instantly. It might take them a little time to get used to you being different very often like, for example, of the appreciation exercise recently had a client and she came back afterwards, you know, and she said, Wow, this this next meeting I have after doing that exercise. It was so different. My difficult person, you know, it's not like I love her now, but and it's not like she was nice. But there wasn't so many mixed messages. It just went smoother, and it was much easier to communicate with her. So give them a little bit of space because, as I said, they might not shift instantly and might take them just a little bit of time to notice that you were different with them. And then, lastly, I want you to pay attention to the opening. What's the opening? The opening is the space you have in the relationship to make a change, because again you cannot control them. But you can shift your side of the relationship. So where is there space for something to start shifting? Sometimes we can go straight to the most difficult bit, but often that's not so simple to go straight from. Let's talk about this really difficult bit that we've been clashing over for a really long time, right? You might have to start somewhere a little bit softer to get the opening to start building the trust, because there probably isn't much trust between you and this person because if we're thinking about them is difficult, you know they're not your closest closest work colleagues and your favorite person in the world. So building the trust, opening up and showing something of you showing some of your vulnerability. If you're walking around high and mighty, thinking that you're better and that you know everything better than this doesn't work doesn't matter how well you do. The exercise is part of this is you looking at your judgment and realizing what judgments you have, what biases you have and getting off your high and mighty chair so that you can look at you know, some of your biases to some of your loyalties to, and that way you can go. OK, maybe I am also difficult in this relationship, right? Cause likely you also contributing to this in some way or another by judging them every time you show up. So pay attention, have a go and then remember, let me know what were your house and which exercise was your favorite uploaded in any format you like. All right, good luck and can't wait to hear how you get on