Thursday, September 19, 2013

Difficult People Don't Have A Reason To Change

Comment: Just had to curate this post from my dear friend and colleague +Alan Allard . My favorite quote is in blue.

Alan's Recent Newsletter 
Two clients have emailed me this week to ask for help in dealing with someone that's (let's say) "difficult" to get along with and be around. One client described his boss as a "pompous ass." The other client that emailed me was at the end of her rope about what to do with her significant other-- She "loves" him but often can't stand him--as she put it.

 A few years back, I presented workshops across North America filled with managers who wanted help in dealing with their "difficult employees." I started the day by asking them to think of that "difficult employee" they were wanting help with. Next, I asked them a straightforward question: "Why should 'Bob' or 'Tia' change anything about their behavior or communication?" The manager's answers would come at me fast and furious: "Because they're creating problems for everyone else," "Because they're not being professional," "Because their team members are complaining about them," "Because I'm their boss and I told them they need to change or else," "Because it's in their best interest to change their behavior." (This is just the short list of all the reasons the managers came up with.)

Here was my response: Your "difficult employee" (or colleague, family member, friend) hasn't changed because you haven't given them any reason to change--at least not from their perspective.

With that in mind let's revisit Human Behavior 101:
Whether at work, at home, or anywhere else, we do what we do because:
 (1) On some level it's been working for us. Notice I said "On some level."
 (2) We haven't figured out a way yet to get what we want in a better way.

There's more to human behavior and motivation of course, but it's a starting point. To influence someone to change their mind or their behavior, we have to help them discover a reason or reasons that are compelling to them, not us. We have to help them find an answer to the question "Why should I change anything?" that resonates with them.

That is often very difficult to do--which is why we don't often do it. It's easier to criticize, complain and to blame. After all, we're not the ones acting like a "jerk," they are. So it's their problem--or so we tell ourselves. When we do that, we are only giving our power away. Their problem becomes our problem.

Maybe it's time we stepped up to the plate and upped our game when it comes to influencing those around us that are "difficult." Maybe it's time we started seeing them as a gift--one that presents an opportunity for us to learn, grow and change ourselves.

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