You can’t change people, but you can change the way you deal with them.
Uncomfortable situations with difficult co-workers, members, and board members are part of day-to-day challenges for association professionals.
Use techniques featured in the second of our 4-part blog series, How to Deal with Challenging Members, to handle whatever is thrown your way.
Chances are that whatever the person’s issue is, their reaction likely doesn’t have to do with you on a personal level. Depersonalize to maintain objectivity and control your emotions.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO APOLOGIZE
Offering an apology and a willingness to work to fix the situation can go miles toward moving in the right direction. An apology can be empathetic vs. taking ownership: “I’m sorry you have to deal with this” recognizes the person’s feelings but doesn’t require you to take blame.
EXPLAIN YOUR POSITION
If an interaction reaches a point where the other person is willing to listen, explain your actions. There may be background information that they were not privy to that will help them understand why you’ve done what you’ve done and what your intentions are.
WORSE COMES TO WORST
Avoid conflict by distancing yourself from the person physically and/or emotionally. If you’ve given it your best shot and a negative interaction is spiraling out of control, consider asking the person not to speak to you in that manner or, if necessary, simply walk away. If worse comes to worse, simply ignore them unless interaction is critical.
You’re more in control than you think. You can’t change people. But you can change the way you deal with situations that involve difficult people.