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Tips for Dealing with Problematic People


There are all kinds of people with diverse personalities, temperaments, skillsets and gifts. Some are quite pleasant to be around and to work alongside, while others may challenge us in ways that perhaps seem to rub us the wrong way, so to speak. How do we as Christian leaders communicate with problematic people, cynics and critics? (Caveat: Never elevate problematic people into leadership positions!)


In order to be and remain in the people business, we must learn how to love them unconditionally. This is not only difficult, but impossible to do on our own. As Christians, we need to ask God to give us a heart filled with His unconditional love and compassion. We also should ask God for wisdom and discernment needed to work with all kinds of people while striving to stay emotionally healthy ourselves. We need to be honest with God, ourselves and others with whom we need to communicate and/or confront in order to reach a resolution and gain an optimal outcome.


We must understand the process of relationships by knowing the stages that relationships experience:

  • The Honeymoon Stage - This stage presents an unrealistic view of the relationship.

  • Specific Irritation - We begin to open our eyes and see things we don’t like.

  • General Discomfort - Specific irritations have piled up in our memory banks that are disclosed to the persons who make us feel uncomfortable.

  • Try Harder - This is the stage of development where we raise our energy level to make the relationship successful.

  • Exhaustion - We are too tired to try any longer, throw up our hands and quit.

  • Separation - This is the final stage wherein the relationship is usually terminated with little hope of restoration because we’re too numb to even care or hurt.


When crises occur in relationships, confrontation is inevitable. We will never conquer what we refuse to confront. The following tips provide the means that will help us to communicate more effectively towards the end of bringing resolution rather than additional offense:

  • Bring in principal persons involved in the conflict.

  • Line up the facts.

  • Never reprimand while angry.

  • Be precise about the offense.

  • Get the other person’s side of the story.

  • Be sure to keep comprehensive records/documentation.

  • Don’t harbor a grudge.


Ten Tips for Taking Criticism

  1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism.

  2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

  3. Look beyond the criticism and see the critic.

  4. Watch your own attitude toward the critic.

  5. Realize that good people get criticized.

  6. Keep yourself physically and spiritually in shape.

  7. Don’t just see the critic; see if there’s a crowd.

  8. Wait for a time to prove them wrong.

  9. Surround yourself with positive people.

  10. Concentrate on your mission and change your mistakes.


Ten Tips for Giving Criticism

  1. Check your motive.

  2. Make sure the issue is worthy of criticism.

  3. Be specific.

  4. Don’t undermine the person’s self-confidence.

  5. Don’t compare one person with another.

  6. Be creative or don’t confront.

  7. Attack the problem and not the person.

  8. Confront when the time is right.

  9. Look at yourself before looking at others.

  10. End confrontation with encouragement.


In the midst of dealing with problematic people, always remember that encouragement causes growth, cultivates trustworthiness and catapults the right people who possess what it takes to be promoted into levels of leadership. Appreciate people for who they really are and anticipate that they will do their best given the reality of their talents, abilities, gifts, skills and personalities. Admire their accomplishments and accept your personal responsibility in how effective the communication has been, is and will be moving forward. Believe the best about people as you help them to be successful and equip those in your sphere of influence for future growth.


References:

Be A People Person: Effective Leadership through Effective Relationships by John C. Maxwell (David C. Cook/Cook Communication Ministries, 2007)

The Manager’s Communication Handbook by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey (Performance Systems Corporation and Cornerstone Leadership Institute, 2003)

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