Monthly Archives: June 2011

Gnothi Seauton

“Know Thyself”

One of the true keys to “Understanding and Working with Difficult People” is Self-Awareness* and I have probably written at least a book’s worth on this singular topic. Ultimately it is an area of self-discovery that we can all work on more AND it is something we should continue to work on our entire lives.

For this brief essay, I want to simply discuss perhaps its most fundamental, and therefore most important, ‘application’.

If we work on Self-Awareness, particularly when we are in difficult situations, something very important happens as a result – we change the foundation from which we are observing and ‘being in’ that situation. We move from reacting to observing and having the potential, because of this shift, of making choices. In essence, just making the effort to be more self-aware, has already changed what we are doing and that DOES impact the situation.

‘Difficult people,’ consciously or sub-consciously, often (most often!) do what they do to get us to react. When we create the space or opportunity to do something different than what they want and expect, we have significantly changed where we start from. We may ultimately still choose reactions that don’t do us much good, but at least we have stepped back a mote and placed ourselves in a position to do something else. [The next step(s) — making wiser decisions relevant to difficult people — is the focus of many pages of many of my books!]

If you really want to be successful in your interactions with others, start with self-awareness. Practice ‘knowing yourself.’

P.S. If you think your know yourself really well already – think back on all those times when you previously felt this way and on where you are today. Yup! I didn’t know myself that well back then either – Knowing yourself IS your life’s work.

*The first of my “Seven Keys to Understanding and Working with People” (or Difficult People)

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“You’re a Difficult Person!”

You may have to deal with a REALLY difficult person in your life – a relation, a coworker or boss, a stranger, an acquaintance. You still shouldn’t tell them they’re difficult. Remember “Negativity breeds Negativity.”

This advice directly relates to my previous blog and two Key Ideas relevant to “Understanding and Working with Difficult People,”

                Difficult people do not see themselves as DIFFICULT.

                If you see a person as being difficult, it is most likely that they will see you as being difficult.

There are better ways to let them know you would appreciate a different approach. Always come from as positive and king perspective as possible:

“John, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t gossip in my presence. I think it undermines our team and what we are trying to accomplish here.”

“Beth, I would appreciate it if we could discuss concerns without raising our voices.”

“Steve, I think we can find a more positive way to approach Ted about this concern.”

Virtually everything to do when dealing with a difficult person has to do with communications – theirs AND yours. Often we add to the mix when we don’t even realize it. It is VERY important to try to think about HOW you say something and how it might be taken by another person.

                Positivity breeds Positivity.

                Choose Wisely.


Joe Koob

P.S. For detailed discussions of the ideas found in these blogs and many, many more see the list of my books by going to the tab above. There is also an extensive Bibliography of the Difficult People Literature on our website and in the back of all of our books. One of my favorites is Sandra Crowe’s “Since Strangling Isn’t an Option…”

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Two Truths about Difficult People

The following are two of the most fundamental truths about difficult people. If you understand these, then you have the basis for beginning to be able to work with them successfully:

Most difficult people do not know they are being difficult.

Pretty heavy, right? But this is really important to understand. The few who do know they are being difficult either have trouble controlling themselves (and often will admit it), or they don’t care that they are being difficult. But if you really take this idea to heart you will understand that this person who is upsetting you is probably not doing it on purpose. They just have a really hard time seeing themselves as other people see them.

I knew a guy once, he was on my team, who was so difficult that even some of his friends referred to him as…well, I won’t use that word here. He didn’t have a clue – he thought he was an upstanding, straightforward, pragmatic guy.

This is one of the reasons that “Self-Awareness” is one of the “Seven Keys to Understanding and Working with People.” If you practice (and yes, it is something we have to work on), self-awareness, than the chances are you are not the one adding difficulty to the equation, but that is where the next truth comes in:

If you see another person as being difficult it is highly (most) likely that he/she will see you as being difficult.

Sure, the person you are dealing with may be seen by almost everyone else as being difficult, but remember it is unlikely he/she sees himself/herself this was. What they do see is someone who THEY are having difficulty with. You may even be one of the nicest people in the world – doesn’t matter to them — from their perspective, you’re trouble.

Here’s a final thought which ties in very importantly to both the ideas above and I will discuss this next time: It NEVER pays to point out to someone they are DIFFICULT or BEING DIFFICULT.

Remember – Negativity breeds Negativity!


Joe Koob

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Egos, Egos Everywhere

I’ve written about this topic several times before, but this is a refresher we all need from time to time (I include myself!).

I was sitting with a small group of people at breakfast recently, most of whom I had just met, and was introduced as a specialist in “Understanding and Working with Difficult People.” Some comment was made about what all difficult people might have in common. My answer was something like, “As a base all difficult behavior is rooted in ego.”

I think one of the problems we get into when we think about the realm of the ego is that we too often associate the concept with ‘egotistical.’ Certainly people with BIG egos can and often are perceived as ‘DIFFICULT’ by others. The truth is though, that EGO is a part of all of our lives.

Another truth is that there is a marked difference between EGO and SELF-WORTH and SELF-CONFIDENCE (two of my Seven Keys to “Understanding and Working with People).

A good sign that our ego is impacting us and others in less than ideal ways is Negativity. And negativity can come in many forms – judgment and blame, defensiveness, feeling down, poor self-worth, lack of confidence, and so on.

One of the most amazing aspects of the ego is its tendency (probably not a strong enough term) to point away from itself and say in essence – you, it, them, the world, providence, luck, etc., are the problem, NOT ME! Certainly NOT ME!

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to start recognizing when our ego is impacting us because it is only then that we can truly begin to make changes in our life. We certainly can say “He (she, it, fate, etc.,) are treating us unfairly or badly, and that may even be true, but YOU are the only person who can actually change that and change starts with recognizing that our ego is involved in the proceedings – Feeling negative? Yup, your ego is involved.

So-o-o-o, when you find yourself pointing at someone or something else as the cause or root to your problem(s), the point here is to look inward (Self-Awareness – also one of the Seven Keys), find your self-worth and self-confidence, and begin to make the effort to change things because it isn’t likely He (she, it, fate, the world, etc.) is going to make that effort for you.

You ARE the catalyst for your life.

Thanks for listening – comments and ideas always welcome.


Joe Koob

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