A List for Dealing With Difficult People

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crying-baby (Photo credit: bbaunach)

Everyone has dealt with their fair share of difficult people.  But I feel like working in the news business pairs you up with some particularly grumpy characters.  Any time egos are involved – things can become testy.  I’ve worked with some absolutely amazing and wonderful reporters, anchors, producers, writers, editors and videographers through the years.  And some less than wonderful and amazing to say to least.

I’ll never forget when I first started out in as a freelance writer in New York City. During my first couple of weeks, a huge story broke while I was in the newsroom.  Within minutes of hearing the news that the Staten Island Ferry had crashed into a pier on Staten Island and that 71 passengers were injured and 11 killed, we were on the air.

I was paired with a stellar reporter.  She had done her time in several markets and was one of the best live reporters at the station.  I was assigned to her that day – so that meant I would take care of writing the anchor toss to her, taking down information about who she interviewed, and working with a video editor to put together her report back at the station, while she gathered facts in the field.

I was new and I was petrified of her.  She was to put it mildly – difficult.  Each time she called me she shrieked, screamed and spat her words at me.  She was short and hung up on me at least 10 times throughout the long day.  I was determined to get everything done exactly as she asked for it.  The overachiever in me got angrier with every phone call.

After her final live hit from the scene, she called me and actually complemented my work.  She told me that I was calm under pressure, competent and good to work with.  I was thrilled and shocked and took the opportunity to thank her and let her know that I won’t operate under those conditions again.

I stood up for myself finally and said the screaming and hanging up had to end if we were going to work together.  She said she appreciated my feedback. And you know what – she never ever treated me like that again in the 4 years we worked together.  She wasn’t always sweet as pie, but she never acted like a lunatic on my watch again. Who knows – maybe she was hazing me or something.

Confrontation is just one way to deal with difficult people.  Here’s my list of a few more:

  • Don’t take it personally: Remember that their behavior isn’t a personal attack — most likely, its a by-product of something else.
  • Stick to the facts: When dealing with difficult people, it can be easy to follow suit and begin using generalizations and exaggerate just as they might. But don’t get dragged down by your frustration.
  • Stay calm: Make sure to keep your emotions in check so that you won’t lose your cool and you can maintain your perspective on the situation.
  • Remember to be respectful: It’s important to be respectful of all people, difficult or not, but its equally important to respect yourself. Stand up for yourself and don’t continually or automatically excuse bad behavior.
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