Do you find you are stumped when it comes to working with unreasonable co-workers? Here’s a short list of the types of people I categorize under “unreasonable”:
· Those you can’t have a reasonable conversation with; they twist your words or totally confuse you and then tell you that you’re the one who doesn’t know how to communicate.
· Those who don’t respect your boundaries.
· Those who aren’t willing to consider your point of view or listen to your side of things.
· Manipulators – they have an agenda and will do anything to get you to do things that seem unreasonable to you.
Here are six things you can do when you have to communicate with someone who’s being unreasonable:
1. Listen with empathy. You must listen so well that you can recite back what you’ve heard as the other person intended. Then repeat it back to him to ensure that you “got it right” from his perspective. You don’t have to agree with what he says. In fact, if he is unreasonable, you probably won’t agree. Sometimes, he will hear what you paraphrased and either back away or modify what he meant.
2. Empathize. When you avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, you can understand their reactions and needs more objectively. You can also put yourself in the unreasonable person’s place. You might try reflecting back to the person how it must not be easy to… “Finish a report when they are so busy,” “deal with a headache when trying to work,” “contend with their frustration,” etc. This strategy puts the spotlight on them and gets it off you.
Of course, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. As long as we’re reasonable and considerate, rude or manipulative actions by others say a lot more about them than they do about us. Don’t take their unreasonable tactics personally!
3. Maintain your composure. Staying calm can avoid any escalation of problems. The less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. Before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count to 5 as you let it out. If you’re still upset, then take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.
4. Don’t try to get the unreasonable person to see your point of view. Don’t try to explain yourself or try to get her to understand you and empathize with your perspective. She won’t, and you’ll just feel worse for trying. Some people are simply not worth trying to reason with. Your time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. Stay diplomatic and the rest of the time, keep a healthy distance.
5. Keep it logical. Keep communications fact-based, using minimal details. Unreasonable people usually don’t care if you try to reason with them, and by de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.
6. Focus on solving the issue. Be proactive and equalize power in the communication by focusing on how best to address the problem. In every communication situation, there are two elements present: the relationship you have with this person, and the issue you are discussing. Separate the person from the issue, and remain soft on the person and firm on the issue. When we’re soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. When we’re focused on the issue, we show ourselves as active problem solvers.
Just remember: Unreasonable people love to upset others… DON’T fight, DON’T personalize, and DON’T react. Instead, DO listen, empathize, stay logical, and focus on solving the issue.