6 Ways to Use Soft Skills Training to Deal with Difficult People

We’ve all had to deal with difficult people at some point.  Difficult people can present a unique problem when they are your employees and it is your job to manage them.

I’d like to note that dealing with difficult people is different than conflict management.  Conflict management is about dealing with a difficult situation. I am going to posit some tips for dealing specifically with the character traits of difficult people.

Often the key to success when dealing with a difficult person is how much control you have over their behavior.

You may have anywhere from total control to zero control.  The only 100% control you have is over your own behavior.  Here are six common character traits of difficult people.  This is by no means a complete and extensive list, but it will get you started!

The first step is to recognize what kind of difficult person you are dealing with in order to determine your best course of action using soft skills training techniques.

The Bullies

Bullies are angry and hostile.  They throw tantrums to get their own way.  They want attention.  The best thing to do is not back down!  Do not allow the bully to monopolize the attention of the group.  Remove them from the situation and you remove their ability to control the situation.

The Gripers

Gripers are constantly complaining.  If it’s not one thing it’s another.  They rarely take the initiative to change anything!  A great soft skills approach to dealing with a Griper is to empower them.  Empower them to come up with a solution to their problem(s). Ask them “Why can’t we do this or that?”, “Why won’t it work?”, “What can we do to make it work?”  Put pressure on them to solve the problem.  Once they feel empowered and heard, you might be surprised at their accomplishments!

The Silent Type

You rarely get more than a “Yes” or “No” answer out of the Silent Type.  Like with the Gripers, the best thing to do is use a soft skills approach to the problem and empower them.  Start by taking away their Yes/No crutch!  Let them know you are listening and get them involved in the group dynamic.  Ask for their opinion, make them expand their answers and do not accept “Yes” or “No” as their final say.

The Just Say No Type

The “Just Say No” Types will answer every new idea with a “That won’t work”, or “We’ve tried it before.”  A good way to deal with Just Say No-ers is to rely on your soft skills and start asking why. Just Say No Type’s can only see obstacles.  Where some see opportunity, this group sees a roadblock.  But if you ask them about the obstacles they see, you may be able to offer assistance in overcoming those barriers.

The Know-It-Alls

The Know-It-Alls know everything!  They are condescending and full of themselves.  Use your soft skills to deal with them, and let them know they don’t have all the answers. Be prepared with your own set of facts and figures. Remind them there is always more than one way to look at any situation and they might only be aware of their own point of view.

The Stallers/Shirkers

Stallers put things off until someone else takes over or until its too late to do anything.  You need to remove the obstacles that the Stallers will not remove themselves.  Use your soft skills training and remind them to set goals and set shorter time limits on their goals! If you have a monthly progress meeting, reschedule it to happen every week.

Keep in mind your course of action when dealing with a difficult person is:


You have no control over the event, but you have total control over your response. For anyone who has ever raised children, you’re aware that maintaining control of a situation and remaining calm (i.e. controlling your response) is a very difficult task indeed.


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