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Special Feature

Handling Difficult People and Situations

Nothing is wrong when conflict happens. It’s normal. It’s going to happen because we are humans. It’s neutral. It’s natural and it’s universal. As a leader, no doubt you will experience some difficult and draining moments as you attempt to lead others. Leadership can be a thankless, lonely and even discouraging task, simply because you are the target for the criticism. It’s very likely you will feel both affirmed and attack as you lead.

You must remember that both you and your people remain “human”. This means you will face conflict before the journey is finished. People possess different perspectives, personalities, and struggles that cause them to react the way they do. Let’s examine how to deal with difficult people effectively.

I want you to take a moment to discuss some of the difficult situations you have faced in the past as a leader. Do you see any patterns?

Often, the most common sources of conflict and difficulty with people are as follows: Personality and relationship clashes; unspoken and unmet expectations; insecurity and identity issues; unresolved conflict from past wounds, and independent attitudes and inflexible perspectives.

And so, here are some foundational principles leaders must understand: (1) In relationships, leaders often must practice the 101% Principle: find the 1% you can agree with and give it 100% of your attention. Understand that there is a big difference between agreeing with somebody than approving somebody. (2). In relationships, it is better to build a fence at the top of the cliff, than a hospital at the bottom. As a leader, take steps to prevent potential trouble.

(3) When the emotion expressed far outweighs the issue at hand, there is a hidden issue to face. (4) When a person’s emotional needs outweigh their intelligence, they won’t be logical. In order words, it is hardly difficult to agree with someone with a highly emotional need. (5) Hurting people naturally hurt people. (6) We must never place our emotional health in the hands of someone else. When your emotional health is placed in everyone’s hand, if they have a bad day, it will affect you and your organization. (7) It is possible for a leader to sabotage himself. He might win an argument, but ultimately he loses more than he gains. (8) As leaders, we must practice the law of connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. Let your people know that you care for them before you ask them for a hand.

Remember: Conflict is Normal. (It is going to happen because we are different.) Conflict is Neutral. (It is neither destructive nor constructive in itself.) Conflict is Natural. (It is universal; you are not alone in your humanity.) Friend, conflicts are sometimes unique in its own way so as to bring about a positive change in a particular situation.

And so, how must we handle criticism? Here are some ways to handle it: (a) Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. (b) Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself. (c) Look beyond the criticism and see the critic. What’s behind their criticism? (d) Recognize good people get criticized. Even Jesus was criticized! (e) Keep physically in shape. Stay strong for such attack. (f) Don’t just see the critic, see the crowd. Don’t let one person bring you down. (g) Wait for time to demonstrate what is right. Allow things to come to light. And (h) Concentrate on your mission. Change your mistakes, not your mission.

Below, I present to you five stages of conflict management and how to walk through in the process: (1) Compliment Stage – We must begin by focusing on positive qualities. Practice the 101% Principle mentioned previously. Always open by focusing on the positive and what you have in common. (2) Compromise Stage – We must be willing to assume responsibility for the conflict, if possible. As you bring up the issue in conflict, recognize the differences in motivation and temperament; meet them half way.  (3) Choice Stage – You must lay out the choice in front of both parties, as you understand it. Maintain their dignity, if possible. Take steps to sustain friendship. (4) Challenge Stage – You must commit yourself to the steps you will take, then extend a clear challenge and await their response. Settle the issue, if possible. Lay out good boundaries and parameters to keep the relationship healthy. Don’t let enemies accumulate. (5) Confidence Stage – End by expressing sincere confidence in them as a person. Let them know you trust them to do what’s right and nothing will prevent you from loving them. Remember, it is more important to win a friend than win an argument.

I trust this article will be useful to each and every Liberian at the time our country, Liberia is going through its reconciliation and healing process. I trust also that it will be useful to our Peace and reconciliation Commission and should the Commission sees it important and would need my expertise I would be willing to avail myself by volunteering my services towards achieving lasting peace for our country.

(Chealy Brown Dennis is a motivational speaker and offers training in leadership and organizational development; strategic planning and team building and management and offers on-location and train-the-trainer formats. He can be contacted through email at: dennisbc2011@yahoo.com or on phone at: 0886-264-611 or 0776545394).

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