How to communicate correctly with difficult colleagues

Professional challenges

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Ilonka Lütjen

Work-life balance, communication coaching, conflict coaching, life coaching
job application training, communication training, personality training, telephone training, train the trainer

Forward strategy

Do you know people where you don’t have the button to turn it off?
Of course you are too well educated to simply say the “Stop! But your thoughts are not so easy to turn off. And there you go: “You’ve already told me that five times.” How do you get out of this number? Use an “understanding formula”.

Because sometimes it helps not only to think such clear words, but also to pronounce them out loud. But before you have to use strong words, you can try it in a different way. Let’s go over this for three different cases.

First, let us talk about the people who keep telling you the same thing.

People do this when they suspect that you have not understood them. By the way, the whole thing has nothing to do with you personally. There are different scenarios, however, why you might want to end this continuous loop: you just might not agree with the words because your opinion does not agree with that of your colleague; you are afraid of confrontation; the subject is too unimportant for you or you have the hope that the other will soon stop if you do not reply. There is a little trick. This almost always works and ensures that the person you are talking to finally feels understood and stops telling you the same thing in a continuous loop. Use a so-called understanding formula. You may already have heard about this. Tell your colleague that you can understand his point of view. At the latest after the second repetition of its statement you should use an understanding formula. But it is called formula, because you use the expression like a formula. You use the formula even if you do not understand the foreign situation. An understanding formula can be called:

“Oh yes, I can well understand that. I would certainly be angry; I would feel attacked; I would feel ignored. I also find it inappropriate what Mrs/Mr …. has said or done”.

According to this principle an understanding formula is formed. You tell the other that you have perceived his words and can understand his view, his impression or his emotion. Please remember: you can understand his reality. It is not your reality. Instead of suffering together now, make sure you say afterwards:

“Let us now consider how we can solve this issue!

You take the initiative and determine whether the other person only needed a listener or is looking for a solution. Even if you already suspect that there is no solution, you can go in search of a solution together. After the futile search to say that there is no solution, the other will like it better than if you tell him immediately that the topic is hopeless. Of course, you can also say this immediately if you like it better. There is no general rule of thumb for this. You will be able to judge yourself and the others. Of course, it makes a difference whether the person is a long-standing colleague or a new member of the team. In any case, an understanding formula will ensure that the other knows that you have perceived his words. In order for an understanding formula to simply cross your lips, even in tricky situations, it is helpful to decide beforehand in a relaxed way which formulation is most appropriate for you.

2 Occasionally communication leads to defiant “infant behaviour”.

Various conversations remind me again and again of the situation with children in which they want to hide and others are looking for them. Occasionally, a child will stand in the middle of the room, be visible to everyone and close their eyes and say: “Look for me”. It assumes that the others cannot perceive it either, because it can no longer see the others. Some adults behave similarly. At least that’s how it seems to me. If they don’t want to admit the facts because they don’t like them, they declare them “non-existent”. You yourself may have the impression that you speak in foreign tongues, that you are too quiet or too loud, or that you should use a different formulation. Ask the other:

  • what he fears
  • how to formulate certain things so that he can take it for granted.
  • if he still has any questions you can answer.
  • what something should be like to please him?
  • then tell him if this possibility does not exist.

You can ask him, this difficult guy, what he wants differently.

  1. do you know people who magically attract similar situations again and again and then assume that the whole thing has nothing to do with you at all?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a girlfriend, a friend, an employee, a colleague or a customer.
The new boss was initially highly praised, but over time behaves in exactly the same way as the old boss. The new job suddenly isn’t as great as initially thought. The new partner behaves just like the old partner. But he looks different. Actually only the optics is different. But the stories about these people remain the same. They could simply listen to it again and again and switch to “draught”. In extreme cases, you could break off contact because you no longer want to do this to yourself, or you could ask questions. Questions that look like this:

  • How would you find out that this person is acting exactly like the former boss; employee; customer; partner?
  • What do you do then? (Then create an action plan together.)

Or ask:

  • What could that have to do with you? (I already hear the outraged exclamation: “With me? Nothing!”)
  • How would you know that everything is the same as in the past?
  • If you find that out, what do you do then? What could a solution/change look like?
  • What would have to happen for you to be happy?” (Make a plan.)

Conclusion: Try to talk to the other. It could work. But maybe he needs a neutral, verbal sparring partner. In any case, you can be sure if you act in such a way that you have tried everything important.