Recently Boulder City Library Director, Lynn Schofield-Dahl, asked me to facilitate a two-hour discussion on how to deal effectively with difficult people. I learned, while conducting research prior to the class that Lynn’s staff is armed only with finely honed communication skills, unlike law enforcement where we have a utility belt filled with “tools,” in addition to our communication skills.
I was reminded that Sir Robert Peel, back in the roaring 1820s stated, and I am paraphrasing, that the true test of efficiency is not that we have all the fanciest tools, but that we don’t need them in the first place. This is true for Lynn’s staff at the library as well as our staff at the police department robots, helicopters, entire divisions committed to solving murders are simply not needed here. We are, however, extremely grateful to our law enforcement partners when the rare occasion occurs when they are needed.
Dealing with difficult people at its core is a relationship business. Here is a partial list of communication tips that, if utilized, will help you deal with these folks/situations more effectively. As a professional representative of your organization, you have to set the tone, project professionalism and be confident in your own abilities. Furthermore, one has to develop a high level of frustration tolerance and ask lots of questions seeking to understand. We have to learn to side-step insults, remember to treat people with respect and dignity, and when possible, give people a way out that looks appealing to them. All of this, while at the same time remembering not to argue, being reasonable and rational, and focusing on the problem.
While I expect none of this information is ground-breaking research, it did serve as a great review for me of the things needed to be a professional representative of the City. It is my hope that the next time you deal with a difficult person that this information served as a refresher, the situation was handled in a professional manner, and you went home safe and stress free all active ingredients to making Boulder City a safer place to live, work, and visit!
Until next month, stay safe!