Have a Difficult Client? Here’s What to Do

March 15, 2017

If you want to compete with the best in the industry, you need to remain calm under pressure.

Ninety percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress, according to a study conducted by TalentSmart, a company that provides emotional intelligence resources to companies. Further, researchers found one of the greatest assets of top performers was their ability to neutralize difficult people. Here are a few tips from TalentSmart on how to do that:

Set limits.

Ask those who seem stuck in negativity how they intend to fix the problem. This will help you redirect the conversation to a more productive place. “Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions,” the researchers note. “People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.”

Maintain emotional distance.

“You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening,” the report says. “When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.”

Don’t focus on problems, but solutions.

“Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state,” the authors note. “When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.”

Silence negative self-talk.

Don’t allow yourself to absorb the negativity of other people; it's self-defeating. “There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it,” TalentSmart notes.

Get more sleep.

If all else fails, sleep on it. A good night’s sleep will help bring you more self-control, and will help make you more positive, creative, and proactive as you handle toxic people.

Source: “How Smart People Handle Difficult People,” TalentSmart (2017)