How Great Leaders Deal With Frustrating People
By Kevin Daum, Contributor
I find one of business’s biggest challenges is the necessity of working with people who don’t share your motivations or viewpoints. Diversity of opinion can be very helpful, but so often these people will intentionally or unintentionally slow you down or block your way.
Regardless of their intent, one way or another you still have to resolve their concerns to move forward.
Because any innovative forward progress is likely to stimulate pushback and resistance, you need a solid set of tools to deal with those who will stand as roadblocks to your success. Just because they frustrate you doesn’t mean they have to keep you from achieving your objectives. These six tips and a little determination can help you overcome any adversary.
1. Figure out the why.
Sure, some people are arbitrary, but most reasonable people have a motive for being a roadblock. Do some digging to find out this person’s true objectives. Someone’s contrary nature may have nothing to do with you, but if you can get to the root, you can figure out a way to placate the person and find some sort of compromise. Until you find out exactly why he or she is contradictory, you are wasting valuable time and energy stabbing in the dark.
2. Speak someone’s language.
So often, frustrating encounters are simple errors of communication. You may have knowledge and expertise in a specific area that is unfamiliar to your opponent. It also may be that he or she is the one with relevant knowledge and experience. Either way, you are better off sharing what you know and working together in an atmosphere of understanding. Take the time to ask for the person’s perspective on the issue at hand. Once you know how he or she conceptualizes the situation, and the vocabulary the person grasps most intuitively, you can clear any static out of the channel.
3. Give them what they want.
One of the secrets to successful negotiation is finding out what the other party wants most. What is the one thing someone most desires to leave the table with? What will he or she leave behind? Once you know what the person wants, lay out the circumstances under which you can give it, if at all possible. And remember — the thing doesn’t have to be an object. It can be an opportunity, emotional or social recognition, or other reward. It can even be protection from a perceived threat on someone’s horizon. If you can’t meet his or her needs fully, have the person suggest an alternative and show that you are willing to work toward a compromise for the greater good.
4. Get the person to invest in you.
People work harder to be polite and accommodating to someone they like and respect. So, work to build a positive relationship. Take a genuine interest in his or her needs and wants. Show empathy and understanding for the person’s concerns. Help him or her understand that you are a person who is more than just a goal-oriented taskmaster. Help the person see the greater good of your objectives in a way that is exciting and inspiring.
5. Go around someone.
Sometimes, you just cannot bring people around to your way of thinking. If that happens, look for other routes to your objective. Ideally, you want the people causing your frustration to back down and remove themselves from the path. But if they won’t, use your creativity to find other routes to achieve your objectives. No need to disrespect anyone in the process. The person causing the stumbling block today may be your greatest supporter in the future.
6. Examine yourself.
The person across the table may currently be the bane of your existence. But you are probably also his or her bane. Perhaps you are guilty of emotional resistance, territoriality, or obtuseness. Take a break from the battle and reflect on your own behavior. There might be ways for you to open yourself up to him or her, demonstrate good faith and de-escalate tension. You can even ask your nemesis specifically what you can do to right the situation. You might be surprised at the simplicity of the response. At the very least, you will have assessed to a point at which you can clearly identify the source of the conflict.
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you’ll never miss a post.
Want more Kevin? Here are three more columns available on Inc.