- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On May 29, 2015
- Career management
If you’re in marketing you probably deal with a lot of different people during any given week. If you’re like me you may find that in today’s super-busy, super-stressed world some of those dealings are a little…well difficult.
With this is mind I am pleased to have grabbed some tips from Robert Bramson’s book Coping with Difficult People. I thought I’d share some of those tips as you might find them helpful too.
Ten different types of difficult people
Robert Bramson spent the better part of fourteen years studying people in organizations around the world. From that research he developed ten types of difficult people you might encounter and how to effectively deal with them.
His 10 difficult people types are:
- The tank: The tank is the kind of personality that will “roll right over” you if you let them. They can be abusive and intimidating.
- The sniper: Snipers do not make frontal attacks. They hit you from behind while they maintain cover.
- The exploder: Exploders have adult tantrums. Exploders go from calm to rage in an instant. You may not even know which “land mine” you trod on.
- The complainer: Complainers find fault with everything. They also imply that you should fix everything they are complaining about.
- The clam: Clams say nothing. Their silence is a learned mechanism for self-defense. By saying nothing, they hope you will not get mad and you will just go away.
- The super-agreeable: Super-agreeables tell you what you want to hear. They leave you feeling good but then they don’t deliver on their promises.
- The negativist: Negativists find a downside to everything. They dampen every suggestion regardless of its merit.
- The know-it-all bulldozer: Bulldozers think that they are 100% correct. They are knowledgeable people that are often correct–but not always.
- The know-it-all balloon: Balloons are fakers. They pretend to be experts but they are not. They want to be respected.
- The indecisive: Indecisives can’t make up their mind. They do not take timely action even when it’s important.
You will have to buy the book to get the details of coping with all 10 character types as it’s too much for this blog post but here a few of my favorite difficult people types and how to deal with them:
The tank: It’s not easy to survive a tank attack. You need to stand up to the attack while not being drawn into an all out war. A tricky balance. If you flee the “tank” will not consider you worthy of better treatment (or respect) next time. You need to use phrases like “in my opinion” and “I disagree with you” to stand up to the attack but not get drawn into a yelling match.
The complainer: You should listen carefully and actively to complainers. Keep listening closely even if you feel impatient and want to leave. You should not immediately apologize for the things they are complaining about even if you think they are true (that will just cause more complaining.) Try to move to a problem-solving mode by asking specific questions and then assign the complainer follow-up tasks to solve the problems they have identified.
The super-agreeable: You need to help super-agreeables tell you what’s really on their mind. Ask them what might be falling short in you or your company so you can tease out their concerns. Watch out for any humor super-agreeables use. Their humor may well be rooted in real underlying discontent. You can learn from their jokes what they are really thinking.
We’re a difficult bunch
As I read the descriptions of the 10 difficult people types I could not help but tag people I know in these “buckets” (including myself!)
I’m looking forward to testing out some of the strategies in the book in my daily interactions. I think some of these could make a real difference in some professional situations that have not run smoothly in the past.
I’d recommend picking up a copy of Coping with Difficult People if you interact with multiple people during your day and need to smooth out how some of those relationships work.
I think most of us exhibit one, or more, of the difficult personality characteristics Robert Bramson describes—at least from time-to-time. In today’s cooperative work environment, many of your marketing results may actually depend more upon how well you deal with people than anything else.